Review: Death Game / Cert: 15 / Director: Hideo Nakata / Screenplay: Satoshi Suzuki / Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kin’ya Kitaoji, Haruka Ayase, Tsuyoshi Abe / Release Date: June 10th
Also known as The Incite Mill, this movie from Hideo Nakata (he of many Ringu/The Ring films) is based on the best-selling novel The Incite Mill – 7 Day Death Game. If you take the novel’s title, then the film’s a pretty much ‘does exactly as it says on the tin’ affair. A mixture of Big Brother and Battle Royale, the story follows ten strangers as they decide to participate in a social experiment for a hefty payoff. Of course, there’s a twist.
We join our test subjects as they are making their way to ‘the facility’ – on the face of it, a beautifully designed, luxurious house. As we’re given our introductions to the ten, there are the usual social stereotypes thrown into the mix. There’s the brain, the jock, the criminal, the basket case and the princess… wait, wrong film. No, here we have a web designer, a student, a doctor (and his wife-to-be), and an alcoholic, amongst others. To add to the tension, there’s also the lurking menace of Guard, a robot that patrols the corridors of the house to make sure that certain rules are kept to. Part RoboCop, part an extra from a Terminator-controlled future, Guard does any dirty work that needs doing.
It’s soon revealed, just to stir things up a bit, that each person has a weapon of choice in their room. These range from a poison capsule to a rather badass looking nail gun. When one of the group is found dead early on, suspicions rise and trust becomes lost. It doesn’t help that ‘the facility’ also announces that members of the group will get bonus money from committing any crimes or from solving said crimes. Plus there’s a regimented voting system in place for any atrocities that do happen, and a prison for anybody deemed guilty of causing said atrocities.
Whilst the initial tension, drama and setup of Nakata’s film are interesting, unique and thought-provoking, the film loses momentum in the final act. We’re not talking Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers walking, but there seems to be a good 20-minute portion of the film where we focus on two or three members of the group just strolling around the corridors of the house. Initially it adds something to the story, but it soon becomes played out. Then when the finale comes, it’s revealed that pretty much everything you predicated at the beginning of the film comes to be.
Despite an interesting premise, providing the chance to do something really different from the pack, Death Game is ultimately a bit of a letdown. There’s not the gore and shock value of a Battle Royale, not the twists and turns of many other such films. That said, there’s a lot worse out there.