“3. . .2. . .1. . .ready or not, here I come!” Children have been yelling these words in games from “hide-and-go-seek” to “kick-the-can” since the dawn of time, but seldom do they whip out guns, crossbows, and other lethal weapons to track down their foes with intent to kill. Now it’s the adults turn to crank up the game!
Ah, the wedding night; full of marital bliss, romance, and passion. Well, not for newly married Grace (Samara Weaving–a dead-ringer for Margot Robbie, and the niece of Matrix actor Hugo Weaving). Looks like her new unbelievably rich husband, Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), has a rather eccentric family and with it, an equally eccentric family ritual: the newly wedded wife or husband into the family must play ‘a game’, as per the family custom handed down for centuries by a mysterious benefactor. Since the family made their millions in board games, this makes sense, right?
So, during Grace’s wedding night, she (unfortunately) draws the unlucky “Hide & Seek” card for her game. The rules? Simple! Stay hidden for eight hours until the sun comes up and she wins! But, oopsie! Nobody told her the other rules: she’s gonna be hunted throughout the locked-down mansion by the rest of the family who are using antique firearms and other lethal weapons! Yikes! So much for a happy wedding night, huh? Some, like Alex and his kid brother Daniel (Adam Brody) aren’t exactly keen on this ritual while others, like the mom & dad (Henry Czerny & Andie McDowell), are all for it… especially creepy Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) who’s about as vicious as she looks.
Poor Grace, once she realizes this ‘game’ is a life or death matter, goes into full survival mode after almost being killed off numerous times in the most horrific ways. Word of warning – Do NOT apply to be a servant at this mansion! Whoever came up with that old saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, knew what they were taking about as Grace tries to survive by fighting back, but will that be enough? The wickedly twisty ending is both eye-rolling and quirky, which pretty much sums up this jet-black comedy filled with buckets of blood, gore-galore, thrills, and diabolical goings-on.
The profanity-laced script by newbies Guy Busick & Ryan Murphy (both their first screenplays) has your requisite set-up, but the pay-off is straight out of the Twilight Zone by way of The Cabin in the Woods. It’s a fun ride, but very, VERY dark… almost too dark as the story jumps around from a humorous plot to one of nasty killings and grisly deaths that often eclipse the one-liners and occasional jokes. Still, the writers don’t succumb to having Grace coming up with Home Alone traps or becoming a full-on, gun-toting bad-ass, as most movies do these days. Yes, there are mammoth-sized plot holes (the sign of any novice writer), but thankfully, the actors rise to the occasion.
Also new to the screen are directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, who have done mostly TV shows and video shorts together, but they show some nice camerawork here in this fast-paced horror/thriller. Most of it is your usual point ‘n’ shoot stiff camera work, but when the action gets going, the steadi-cam gets a workout and that’s where the film exceeds. But let’s not forget the icing on the cake here, Samara Weaving and her big, beautiful, expressive eyes. She nails this role with gusto, going from the innocence and confused newlywed to a hardened, broken, and really pissed-off bride-on-the-edge.
Veteran actor Czerny just relishes his role, making his lines funny and devilishly sinister at the same time; no easy feat. The other one I really enjoyed was another stage & screen vet, Nicky Guadagni who, as carved eagle-face Aunt Helene, gave a performance so good, she didn’t have to utter a sound, but when she did, hoo-boy! The others are your standard stock actors with a few stand-outs, but it’s odd that the leading man, Mark O’Brien, was the only one that didn’t really register on camera and was rather flat. Go figure.
The Game (1997)
Like games? In this wild and utter bonkers David Fincher film, Michael Douglas finds himself the recipient of a birthday gift from his brother. But THIS birthday gift isn’t your usual $25 gift card to The Olive Garden or some weird underwear gag gift with hearts all over it. No, this birthday gift just might end your life!
Happy 48th birthday to Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas), a straight-laced wealthy investment banker whose estranged from just about everyone in his life. His brother Conrad (Sean Penn) presents Nicholas with an unusual gift—a voucher for a “game” offered by a company called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). Conrad promises that it will change his brother’s life. Boy, that’s an understatement! After a lengthy and time-consuming series of psychological and physical examinations at the CRS offices, he’s informed that his application has been rejected.
But later, Nick begins to experience the weirdest things ever: he encounters a waitress, Christine (Deborah Cara Unger), whose life is in danger because of ‘the game’. Nicholas contacts the police to investigate CRS, but they find the offices empty! But is Christine an employee of CRS and all of this is being staged? In her apartment, Nicholas attacks a hidden CRS camera and armed CRS troops begin to swarm the house and fire upon them. Nicholas and Christine flee into the night. Christine tells Nicholas that CRS has drained his financial accounts (she’s right!) and then she drugs him.
Waking up, he realizes he’s been scammed AND entombed in a cemetery in Mexico! Egads! He sells his gold watch to escape, returns home, and finds his beautiful mansion ransacked, full of graffiti, and is told Conrad has been committed to a mental institution. Going a little crazy, Nick retrieves a gun and goes after the CRS employee who had conducted his psychological tests… as it turns out, he’s a TV actor (James Rebhorn). Nick finds Christine on a rooftop and threatens her, but just as Christine reveals that the ‘game’ is just a hoax and his family and friends are waiting for him on the other side of the door, Nick decides to JUMP!
This movie is sheer nuts! With a brilliant screenplay by the writing team of John Brancato & Michael Ferris (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation), it’s craftiness is matched only by the insane direction of David Fincher. You never know if this “game” is real or not up until the very end. The best scripts make you wonder and second guess everything and this one does just that. It’s funny, these two writers, who penned such an awesome screenplay, also wrote some of the worst movies ever (Catwoman, MindWarp, Into The Sun).