It’s Just A Game (2018) review

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A teenage misfit bullied by her peers summons a bizarre cult who are intent on doing her dirty work for her. Here is our review of writer/director Daniel Emery Taylor’s It’s Just A Game.

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Daniel Emery Taylor’s It’s Just A Game is a campy-yet-violent slasher flick with nods towards Carrie, The Craft, Wes Craven’s entire back catalogue, and modern enfant terrible, Rob Zombie. Despite the films obviously low budget, regular horror fans will enjoy the skill and sometimes unintentional comedy that is on show, while people used to watching small independent horror will revel in the sex, gore, and patchy acting that permeates throughout the films entire 80-minute run time.

It’s Just A Game exudes a certain amount of strange charm and, as long as you don’t take it too seriously or think too much about it, you will have a good time watching it. There is an anarchic zeal that allows the audience to laugh at the horrors on show. Thanks to its script, the film has a subversive sense of humour where the actors often venture into the regions of camp, over-the-top craziness, but never let on that they think that what they are doing is funny. The only one who occasionally winks at the audience is Daniel Emery Taylor himself as the character of Brother Thaddeus, but this doesn’t distract because when he dials his performance down a notch he does become quite menacing.

The sincerity of the cast gives the humour a kind of solemnity; we laugh at something disgusting and also something stupid, and then we scald ourselves for laughing in the first place. Consider the scene when one of the cult members seduces a character who they then stab through the throat. As the blood pours out of the victim’s mouth, the cult member goes back in for a huge tongue sandwich. Also, look out for a pastiche of the John Hughes 80’s makeover scenes, a moment with a pillow on a face that amused me, while the throwaway line ‘Who Wants Crepes’ elicited a genuine guffaw.

ItsJustAGame_KeyArtIt’s Just A Game has been written and directed by Daniel Emery Taylor, an actor who appeared in the cult movies The Return Of Swamp Thing and Road Trip, he deserves credit for avoiding taking the film too seriously and allowing an ironically funny approach to the material. There is some good writing and decent bits of acting going on if you look hard enough and ignore the budget and absurdity for a second. A couple of the kills are inventive while the amount of blood on-screen during certain scenes helps to give the impression that the cast where all having a ball most of the time.

The cinematography by William Schweikert allows for some tension with slow pans to the side of the frame and to the corners of darkened rooms, meanwhile, close-ups of psychotic smiling faces during murders give us a certain perspective and feeling of being involved in them. The brooding soundtrack helps to enhance the horror although the opening rock song doesn’t work quite as well and I did have some issues with the lighting that seemed too bright during certain interior shots and then too dark during others.

It’s possible to watch It’s Just A Game and see it as a dark satire on bullying, acceptance, and family life or you can just sit through it drunk and still have a good time. Some of you will appreciate the movie while others certainly won’t, but at the end of the day, It’s Just A Game is an enjoyably economical horror film that for 80 minutes will help you forget about the world and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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