The Toronto After Dark Film Festival likes to play games with the audience. None more so than tonight’s film, Game of Death. Directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace, it’s a Canadian film that explores what it really means to live and die. Here’s a summary of the film: Kill or be killed is the golden rule of the Game of Death. It sucks for seven millennials who ignored that rule. Now each one’s head will explode unless they kill someone. Will they turn on each other to survive? or will this sunny day be the last for the innocent people of their middle-of-nowhere town? As you can tell, it’s a very uplifting and happy movie… lol.

We meet our cast of young people as they enjoy a beautiful day hanging around the pool, smoking weed, drinking, and having sex. It’s pretty much the average teen to early twenty-something way of relaxing. When they come across a board game they find in a closet, they soon learn they should have stayed the course of what they were doing.  “Hey what’s this odd looking thing? Let’s see what it does,” or “Let’s play with it,” or “Let’s open that creepy door.” These are all long standing tropes in horror and for good reason. People continue to do these things in real life without thinking of any possible consequences of their actions. This is something the movie takes time to reinforce using our hapless Game of Death players.

The film feels a little rough around the edges and the acting, at times, can feel stilted. But it does not take away from the journey these kids take. They are learning on the fly that every action has results they may not like but have to live with. We see the quiet thoughtful kid become a raging maniac and the party girl question the universe. There’s a drug dealer with a conscience and sweet girl being well, sweet. The movie surprised me with how much they played with the conventions of these archetypes throughout the film. It was a very pleasant surprise.

By the time we get to the 3rd act, all hell has broken loose. These kids are changed forever. A lot (and I mean a lot) of people are killed in this movie. 24 to be exact. It’s a bizarre film to watch and I haven’t even touched on the video game influences the film wears on its sleeve throughout. From the opening title sequence to the 3rd act rampage, the video game imagery doesn’t stop. It reminds me a little of how Crank played with it. It’s a fun layer to add on to the on screen carnage.

Playing before Game of Death is the Canadian short film, Latched. A short that I already had seen when we spoke with the creators back during TIFF. A woman goes to a remote cabin to get away from the city with her young child to work on her latest dance routine. What she finds in the woods one day changes her life and shows her who she really is. Don’t mess with mothers… ever.

If you want a film that takes a darkly comedic look at the current state of humanity in brutal ways, you will want to see Game of Death. The film screens at Toronto After Dark 2017 on Wednesday, October 18th at 7:00pm. Tickets are available at the Cineplex Website.

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Game of Death plays tonight at TADFF17