Thursday, July 16, 2020

When Game Night Gets Bloody: 8 of the Deadliest Games in Horror

Among the many things keeping us sane these days, besides movies, of course, are games. Video games, board games, virtual escape rooms, and even jigsaw puzzles have become tools of comfort and stress release the longer we remain indoors. As with any other conceivable topic, horror has found a way to exploit games too. We’re not talking films like SawThe Belko ExperimentCube, or Battle Royale, which function more as depraved social experiments, but movies that craft their terror around games created for amusement’s sake.

These eight movies raise the stakes of game night, transforming a night of fun into a night of deadly terror. The object of most games is to win, but the games in these horror movies are rigged to slaughter. Odds for survival are minimal…


Experienced profiler and instructor Jake Harris (Val Kilmer) likes to use simulation to train his FBI students. He takes them to a small island, where he’s created an elaborate town rigged with dummies, mechanized crime scenes, elaborate sets, props, and more, all so his students can test their profiling skills by playing out a serial killer simulator. They’re isolated and trapped on the island for the duration of the test. The only hitch, though, is that someone has tampered with Harris’s simulation, placing an actual murderer into the mix. Paranoia breaks out as the erstwhile profilers start dying. Also starring L.L. Cool J, Christian Slater, Johnny Lee Miller, Kathryn Morris, and Clifton Collins Jr., Mindhunters makes for an overlooked surprise.

Escape Room

The rise of escape rooms meant that it was likely inevitable that horror would eventually set its sights on the popular group puzzle solving activity. Director Adam Robitel and production designer Edward Thomas did just that, crafting an intricately themed escape room for six strangers that have unwittingly entered into a deadly game. From burning hot lobby rooms to inverted pool halls to snowy cabins with icy lakes – and despite the very high stakes involved for the players – the set pieces are so extravagant that you can’t help but wish you could play an escape room like this. Though the characters dying in these rooms would likely disagree.

Beyond the Gates

From the mid-80s to the early nineties, the height of VHS’s dominance in home media spilled over into gaming. It became a common trend to see VCR editions of popular board games or all-new games created around a themed tape. For horror aficionados, Atmosfear (aka The Nightmare) reigned supreme. Jackson Stewart’s Beyond the Gates crafts an endearing horror movie about estranged siblings, using the VCR board game as the gory vehicle by which these brothers work through their inner demons and familial strife. Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John Hardesty (Chase Williamson) discover “Beyond the Gates” while cleaning out their missing father’s video store. Once they hit play, the game’s master Evelyn (Barbara Crampton) guides them through a nightmarish quest for survival. While the body count is relatively low, the deaths can be gruesome. Moreover, Beyond the Gates embraces its ’80s VCR board game so thoroughly that it plays out like a stylized nostalgic hug.


Lonely horror fan Michael (Edward Furlong) immediately sends away for the hot new CD-Rom game “Brainscan” the moment he hears about it. He ignores initial gameplay warnings and submerses himself in the game, allowing the game’s Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) to guide him through acting like a serial killer and slaughtering victims in gruesome ways. The only problem is that these murders seem to occur in the real world, as well. The technology involved is long past dated, and the Smith’s performance as the Trickster takes scene-chewing to another level. Then again, this is a horror-comedy, and there’s still plenty of fun to be had in this mind-bending ’90s cult fave. 

Stay Alive

Anyone who dares to play the console game “Stay Alive” winds up dead. After the death of their friend, Loomis (Milo Ventimiglia), a group goes through his belongings, discovers the game, and decides to play together in his memory. They don’t realize that they’ve just invited the game’s villain, the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, to cross over into their world to murder them. The key to stopping her is within the game’s mythology, meaning they have to keep playing. It’s a video game-styled slasher movie, essentially. The rules of Bathory and the game change and evolve, and the kill count isn’t always in the order expected. Stay Alive seems tailor-made for horror video game fans.

As the Gods Will

Move over Battle Royale; Takashi Miike’s manga adaptation doesn’t just center around one high school class forced to play a deadly game, but an entire high school. Teen Shun Takahata is a huge fan of violent video games and wishes his real-life matched the same level of thrills the games give him. It seems some omnipotent being heard his wish and grants it by subjecting his school to a series of deadly games. Each one is as increasingly bizarre as they are violent. This is a video game played out in movie form, by way of Miike’s warped mind. It’s gory, bonkers, and, above all, it’s highly entertaining. Don’t expect a whole lot of explanation behind the zany madness, though.


In the near future, virtual reality game consoles have evolved past traditional electronic systems. Gamers plug into alternate realities that blur the line between fiction and fact through bio-ports surgically inserted into their spines. Game developers are worshiped as celebrities. While demonstrating her latest game, Allegra (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is nearly killed by assassins, and her only copy of the game possibly damaged in the process. Allegra and her ally Ted Pikul (Jude Law) test the extent of the damage by entering into the game’s world, leaving them vulnerable and exposed to dangers both inside and outside. Leave it to David Cronenberg to offer a dizzying, layered examination of our relationship with video games, with his trademark body horror, too. It’s twisty, complex, and thrilling. 

Ready or Not

Grace (Samara Weaving) thinks her new in-laws are a bit eccentric when they reveal their family tradition; any new addition to the family by marriage must participate in a family game night. A card pulled from a box selects the game. For many, it’s a harmless game like “Old Maid,” but Grace draws the only game that incites violence- “Hide and Seek.” Grace must hide within the mansion while the entire Le Domas clan seeks her out to sacrifice before dawn. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett hearken back to the simpler days of game night and give it a riotous horror twist. Weaving, as always, steals the film. Family game night, or “hide and seek” for that matter, has never been as cut throat as it is here.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!


Some of Scary Horror Stuff's Freakiest Short Horror Film Features!

The latest on the horror genre, everything you need to know, from Freddy Krueger to Edgar Allan Poe.

How Plausible Is It to Have the "Hocus Pocus" Kids Back for Some More Halloween Hijinks?

Potentially very good. See below. It turns out that the announcement is official according to the Carrie Bradshaw of the Sanderson bunch (Sarah Jessica Parker): there will be a "Hocus Pocus" sequel, premiering on Disney+.