Mama told me that if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything – but unfortunately, it’s my job to say something no matter what.
I’d rather not discuss Kill Game, because, frankly, there’s not much TO discuss. It’s a dead-on-arrival slasher flick boasting forgettable performances, unnecessary bloating, and low-budget effects that, in the basest terms, show glimmers of ambition, but it’s ultimately ill-fated generics.
Robert Mearns’ obvious thriller means to turn the tables on deserving victims, but gets lost in a soulless story about shitty people who meet equally shitty deaths. There’s a larger theme of bullying gone wrong at play, but its hamfisted execution makes a caricature out of otherwise important topics. Cheap thrills, unsexy romance, and an ending that’s four scenes too long only further a frustrating stereotype about middling January releases and their assumed quality. In the immortal words (or word, really) of the great Gordon Ramsay, “Damn.”
This deadly game begins when six acquaintances mourn the death of a mutual friend in their hometown of Grace Arbor. They bond over better memories, reminiscing about a past filled with the “pranks” they used to pull on geekier classmates. You know, like convincing a girl she had HIV, or blackmailing coaches with evidence of underage sexual encounters – typical kid shenanigans. As you can assume, they pissed a lot of people off, but when their friend’s death turns out to be intentional, a killer in Grace Arbor comes forward. One by one the group finds themselves being hunted, as the masked maniac looks to enact revenge on the mean-spirited jokesters. For every action, there’s an equal, opposite, and bloody reaction – at least in Grace Arbor.
Running at an unfocused hour-and-forty minutes, Mearns could have benefited from spending some more time in the editing room. So many strange scenes exist with no connection to plotted material, from one character peeing blood (that’s never addressed again) to a rigid “love making” scene that cuts away before any goods are gifted. Edgier material is pushed with little tact, only to perpetuate each character’s most despicable traits, yet whenever Kill Game goes for a next-level move, Mearns yanks the reigns and flutters back into a drab genre reality. Each scene becomes more bland and uncharacteristic than the last, blending together the same low-budget redundancies of a billion slasher wannabes who came before.
Even worse, this collection of assholes are detestable beyond the point of entertainment, and their motivations couldn’t be more nonsensical. Their past is filled with constant douchebaggery that ranges from shooting the class valedictorian with paintball guns to drowning a classmate during one of their oh-so-memorable prankings.
I get the whole high school stereotype, where stupid kids make worse mistakes, but their catalog of maniacal destruction still doesn’t create a scenario where we enjoy watching these locker-shoving losers get slaughtered mercilessly. It’s hard enough to stomach weak character structures and bottled-up aggression that makes for some eye-rolling interactions, but when a self-hating beauty decides that getting lypo with a killer on the loose is a good idea, that’s when my hands were thrown up in a fit of concession. Unlikable characters acting out dumber impulses – a horror fan’s true nightmare.
In what’s nothing but an unfortunate bout of funding, Kill Game manages one intriguing death out of a handful of quick, bloody cuts that muster little more than jets of blood being squirted on camera. There’s a decapitation and a few on-screen slashes, but these come at the unfortunate price of repulsive CGI.
Otherwise, we watch as a granny-masked vigilante swings his/her hammer down at the camera, giving us his/her victim’s view. There’s a reach made at bigger cinematic moments, but without the proper resources, ambition gets the most of what could have been slicker, more grounded kills. Know your limits and achieve success where you can – don’t go for broke without the proper means.
Week after week we’re subjected to underground horror hopefuls, but they mostly end up being lackluster misunderstandings of what makes a genre success stand out from the pack. Kill Game is such a film that attempts a broad-stroke horror film with no definition, stumbling over itself in trying to execute what are assumed to be audience cravings. Constant suggestions to the killer’s identity cause frustration, and terribly misplaced “jokes” find no place among mean-spirited characters who test our patience with each lifelessly muttered line. I truly believe there were nothing but good intentions behind Mearns’ production, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single redeemable quality here – it’s all been done before, and on much higher levels. There are no winners in this game.
Kill Game is the same tired rehash of a billion slasher copycats, but its lifeless inception seals a forgettable fate before the credits even roll.