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Vacationing for a weekend getaway, seven teenagers settle at a summer home to partake in drunken shenanigans. Stumbling onto a mysterious board game, the friends read out the rules and we realize something is astray as soon as the game decides to take a pinch of their blood. “24” appears on the board’s counter as the clock ticks down to the number of head counts the players must proceed in killing before the game ends. Quickly realizing the game isn’t playing around as one of their friend’s heads explodes in front of them, the group realizes it’s an impending time bomb of kill or be killed. What ensues is an onslaught of gore and eventual death in their quest for survival.

 

With several screenings in SXSW’s Midnighters circuit, Game of Death is sure to cater to late night film goers expecting blood soaked slaughter and high speed thrills in its 80 minute duration. A throwback to Cronenberg’s Scanners’ exploding head scene, directors Laurence “Baz” Morais and Sebastien Landry incorporate exceptional gory effects (including the use of a canon to shoot out fake blood) and body-horror in the film’s kill count and anticipatory detonating scenes of brain and guts. The film’s opening credits read reminiscent of old-school video games as well as impressive comic-book styled panels and sequences embedded during the pinnacle mass butchering. With Game of Death’s excessive drive, its later attempts to make shifts towards a deeper moral lesson felt awkwardly out of place and hollow. With the characters primary interests focused on sexual promiscuity and getting high and drunk, Ashley (Emelia Hellman) seems like the only one out of the seven with any redeeming qualities, making a few conscious decisions of virtuous worth before a befuddled ending. If it was the directors’ intent for the film to serve as discourse on the themes of youth, violence, video games and existential questioning, it certainly got lost among the over the top gags and splatter. However for film viewers simply looking for an entertaining and stylistically striking horror film, you’ve come to the right place.

 

Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.