THE MURDER GAME
Directed by Robert Harari
Written by Jason Contino, Robert Harari
Cinematography by Jason Contino
Music by Carl Johnson
Cast: Steve Polites, Katie Sirk, Samuel Klein, Julia Pickens, Christina Marchand, Ariana Almajan, Erik Soulliard
1.85:1/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from Warner Bros. DVD
Eight high school friends have a game that they like to play, which is a modified game of hide and seek, where a secret killer tries to murder all the other players before being discovered. When they aren't allowed to play in their houses anymore, they sneak into a self-storage facility before it closes, with the intention of playing all night once they are locked in.
At first, the new environment provides some extras chills and thrills for the group, but when someone in the building starts playing the game for real, the group begins to pick sides and point fingers at whose to blame. Is it the homeless man they find living in one of the storage units? Collin, the troubled goth that has just joined the group? Or someone else that has yet to emerge from the shadows? The clock is ticking until the doors unlock again, but will anyone be left alive to try and escape?
Director and writer Robert Harari makes his feature length film debut with this low-budget and high body count slasher mystery. The limitations of both budget and actors are recognizable within the first few minutes of the movie. But if you can get past the fact that a bunch of twenty-somethings are trying to pull off playing high school kids that still have to ride the bus and get into the storage unit setting where most of the film takes place and the teenager ruse is dropped, the movie offers up a pretty good ride.
Harari, who co-wrote the movie with Jason Contino, play to the strengths of their small budget and the predominantly single setting. They build up the storage warehouse into a labyrinth-like maze shrouded in shadow, subtly set up where certain places and objects are as everyone runs around playing the game before returning to them for a payoff later once the killer begins their rounds. The script does succumb to several horror trappings that are more groan-inducing than scary, and the shtick with trying to figure out who the killer is before revealing the rug-pulling final twist wears out its welcome before the card is shown.
The kill scenes are varied and gruesome, with the killer using the surroundings and what is available at hand to dispatch the victims. And with such a large group of one-dimensional characters, you can be sure the kills come fast and furious. Decapitation by axe, a horrific kill via fire extinguisher, and a copper pipe through the neck complete with blood dripping out are all on the menu. The film is "unrated" (which probably means the film was just never submitted to the MPAA) and though none of the violence is beyond "R" status, it should fulfill the bloodlust for the average gorehound.
The DVD release features a non-anamorphic widescreen release with a crystal clear image. The picture quality betrays the low-budget origins, as the entire movie has a "digital" sheen to it. That is not to say it looks like a VHS camcorder, the movie was obviously filmed with professional equipment, but it just doesn't have that natural movie look.
The feature-length audio commentary is the key feature on the DVD, and includes the creative team and several of the actors in a lighthearted group atmosphere telling stories and a few jokes about the production. Aspiring filmmakers will catch a few helpful lessons as well. A gag reel is included that runs the standard gambit of flubbed lines and cursing, shows off the positive aura on the set during production, and a few practical jokes. A short deleted scenes compilation shows off some rough footage that hit the cutting room floor early in editing. A few trailers are thrown in, as well as Harari's short film "The Puzzle" to round out the extras.
This Film Features:
Review by Ryan Midnight. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©