GAME OF DEATH
A microbudget horror-thriller from Québécois directors Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace, Game of Death examines how people cope when forced into extreme situations; how firmly our latent, underlying darkness can find footing at one unexpected roll of the die.
In the vein of 2015’s Circle (written and directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione), a group of people must continuously choose someone to die until 24 people have been killed. If they don’t kill someone themselves, one of them seems to be chosen at random to have their head explode by unseen forces. Unlike Circle, this is not a group of strangers, but a group of young friends and couples sharing a cottage for what was meant to be an idyllic vacation full of sex and booze — this raises the stakes for the targeted group. Also unlike Circle, their victims are not restricted to those inside the group. Everyone is fair game, and the millennials soon take their death show on the road (in a flamboyantly-decorated pizza delivery car, at that).
One couple takes the situation as an opportunity to transform themselves into a low-rent Mickey and Mallory Knox, but with a conscience, developing a code of conduct through which to choose their victims. It’s up to their friends to stop the slaughter. Game of Death features some artfully-shot sequences, fun gore, and a visually interesting animated sequence illustrating a particular killing spree.
I’ll be blunt; Game of Death was not my favourite screening at Toronto After Dark. But that isn’t to say it’s not worth a watch. While the first act is a little rough, the film does pick up and the third act is decent. There are some interesting, well-composed shots sprinkled throughout, a great score, and eerie sound design in the form of the deadly countdown timer. Look for its VOD release later this year.
A well-produced zombie film set during World War I? You had me at “zombie”, but the rest of the sentence is just as intriguing. Directed by Leo Scherman and starring Rossif Sutherland (Reign), Adam Hurtig (Cult of Chucky), and Karine Vanasse (Cardinal), Trench 11 (2017) is a refreshing and effective twist on the zombie genre, locating the index case of a zombie outbreak deep in a mysterious trench dug by German soldiers in 1918, rumoured to be the setting of a bizarre biological experiment.
A shell-shocked Allied tunneller (Sutherland) is recruited to join a team of soldiers sent to France to investigate and destroy the trench and whatever horrors it holds. As the danger mounts, tensions begin to chip away at the Allied solidarity. Will the soldiers be able to fulfill their mission? What biological horrors are the Germans developing? And what’s with all of those damn worms?
Cinematographer Dylan Macleod did some beautiful work on this film in capturing the lush details of the period production design — and the disgustingly top-notch zombie design. The film’s dark, synthy score is anachronistic but strangely fitting, an effective accompaniment to its dark and gripping atmosphere.
Trench 11 is slated for a limited theatrical release this November – catch it if you can!