David Fincher (who also directed Se7en which I’ll be talking about a bit later) gives us this thriller about a rich man called Nicholas (played by Michael Douglas) who has restricted his life and become a bit of an asshole. On his birthday we see Nicholas’ brother give him a voucher for a game from a company called CRS (Consumer Recreations Services). The game takes over Nicholas’ life, forces him to question the motives of everyone around him and pretty quickly it stops seeming like any kind of game anymore.
The game Nicholas is forced to play preys perfectly on paranoia. Michael Douglas’ growing panic throughout the film makes it something that is genuinely scary- we see his entire life get turned upside down, his friends turn out to not actually be friends, his father’s suicide mocked… this list can go on a lot longer. It’s also thought provoking if you’re a weirdo like me who overthinks things. The thought that everyone’s in on the joke and laughing at you is an uncomfortable one for all of us. We like to be included and this exclusion is something we all fear.
Now for the downside to this film- and it is to its credit that it only has one- the ending is atrocious. The build up to it is fantastic and definitely makes up for those final five or so minutes but seriously? No lasting psychological damage? Really? I understand why it ended like that and I appreciate that the anticlimax certainly works in this case but good god at least make the character’s reaction to it believable. I do have one tiny niggle at the romance they managed to shove in there but it’s easy enough to ignore.
Overall I reccommend it. Bravo suggests that the scene where the game begins is the scariest and I agree- it gets across that this isn’t going to be a fun game, hints at the sinister way that it will deconstruct Nicholas’ life and kicks off that paranoia. The Game is a good thriller with a good story that, in spite of a lacklustre ending, is a good watch.
Christopher Ecclestone is my favourite Doctor so far. He played the character as someone on the edge of madness and at times in his run we saw him fall the wrong way. I think this is the performance that really showcased how well he can play that kind of part.
Shallow Grave is the story of three flatmates (who are really unlikeable people) who take on a fourth flatmate. The new guy dies and leaves them with a suitcase full of money. They get rid of his body in a scene that is both really well done and actually quite disturbing (the scene bravo chose as scariest, though I’m of the opinion that the drug dealers later on in the film are scarier) and have to deal with various consequences of this act.
First things first: this is a film where the asshole protagonist thing is actually done well (take note horror writers/directors who do this badly). All three of the flatmates are horrible people. While we are being introduced to them early on in the film we see them interview potential flatmates and bully most of them (this does come back to bite them on the ass later). So how does the director get it to work? Easy. They aren’t flat characters. Here’s a quick tip for anyone who wants to make a film with an asshole protagonist: make them seem like an actual person. Shallow Grave got that right which is why it worked, cause here’s the thing a lot of directors and writers seem to forget at the moment- if they don’t seem like actual people we won’t give a shit when the scary stuff starts. Seeing Chris Ecclestone’s character go off the deep end in this is scary because we see it all happen to someone who seems real.
The build up to the scene where they dispose of the body is really well done, too, as we see the reactions of the characters developing and their reluctance to do the deed is really believable. Of course none of them want to saw off a dead man’s hands, but someone has to do it and the disgust at having to watch it is well portrayed. The emotional consequences for the characters afterwards is believable and it’s interesting to think about how you would react in that situation. Would you desecrate the corspe of someone who is (essentially) a stranger for money?
Ewan McGregor and Kerry Fox are also fantastic. There’s a wonderful moment later on in the film when their characters trying to decide if they should go up into the attic and they clearly very afraid of what they’ll find which draws the audience into that, too.
So, if you haven’t guessed already from what I’ve written above this is one that I highly reccommend this one. It isn’t necessarily scary per se- the horror is too subtle for jump scares and there wasn’t any gore to speak of, though in the later parts of the film there are some very tense moments. It’s thoughtful as well, without whacking you over the head with it. Definitely give it a watch.