Director: Robert Harari
Cast: Steve Polites, Katie Sirk, Samuel Klin, Max Hambleton, Ariana Almajan
A group of high school friends develop and regularly play their own "murder game," which is similar to good, old fashioned hide and seek. One of them is elected to be the killer by drawing a specific card. The others have no idea who the killer is and the group splits up and hides and the elected killer "kills" anyone he or she can find. The person who can figure out the identity of the killer first wins the game. Understandably, their parents do not approve of the game so forbid their children to participate in it. However, being teenagers, they find a way around this obstacle by sneaking into a large indoor storage facility to play the murder game safely away from the possibility of parents discovering what they are up to. Unfortunately, they are not alone, as a mysterious killer almost immediately begins really murdering them in bloody, violent ways.
Contemporary slasher films that have an 1980's style to them are starting to make a comeback, and The Murder Game is a prime example. In the 80's, films like Sleepaway Camp, The Slumber Party Massacre, The Mutilator, My Bloody Valentine, and even the original Friday the 13th rarely get made anymore and have been replaced by films with slicker production values, more sophisticated, self-referential plots, and little heart. It seems many slasher films that have been released lately seem to be embarrased to be slasher films. Therefore, it is always a pleasant surprise to come across a recent film that is unforgiving in the fact that it is a 100% pure slasher film. The Murder Game is one of those films. It knows what it is and does not try to be anything different or more intelligent. It is a pure slasher film, and a pretty brutal one at that. The action comes fast; there are very few drawn out or tedious scenes to be found. The plot is straight forward and predictable for this type of film, and the setting is very claustrophobic and provides a nice, creepy atmosphere, as a storage warehouse is a perfect location for a slasher film because of the enclosed space it provides. Once the warehouse goes dark, lighting is used brilliantly and there is a red tint to the picture that really provides a nice, unsettling touch. The murders are actually pretty graphic and should satisfy any gorehound. There are axings, throat-slittings, decapitations, and brutal stabbings. Overall, the tone if this film is very effective and fans of the 80's slashers should be somewhat pleased.
Not all is well done, though. The dialogue is terrible. There are some extremely cringe-worthy words uttered by these teen characters, including a reference to Abbott and Costello that I found baffling, as most teenagers probably do not even know who Abbott and Costello are well enough to quote lines from them. There are too many attempts to throw in some light humor but it falls flat because: (1) it is terribly written, (2) the actors who say it are terrible in their delivery and (3) no sane person would utter these lines when they believe their friends are being slaughtered. The acting is also very uneven, but that could be because of the terrible and inappropriate lines the actors were forced to speak. True to most 80's slasher films, none of the characters are particularly likable or fleshed out and there is no attempt and characterization, so it is not a big deal when the start being picked off, particularly consider there is no character to root for. There are also some pretty bad clichés, such as the red-herring outsider and the ending has been done before many times, yet was somewhat unrealistic and ineffective here.
The Murder Game will ultimately provide ninety minutes of brainless entertainment for fans of brutal slasher films. However, not much about it will be memorable, except maybe the incredibly brilliant use of the setting. There is much worse out there to watch, including a few films that have actually made it to theaters. Go in not expecting much and this may pleasantly surprise.
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