John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back for what’s being dubbed the most disturbing instalment of the Saw franchise. Set between the events of Saw I and II, the tenth entry in the saga will explore the untold chapter of Jigsaw’s most personal game. A sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer – only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, the infamous serial killer returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through devious, deranged, and ingenious traps.
In anticipation of Saw X releasing in cinemas on 29 September, we thought now was a better time than any to help tide over the wait by recommending some of our favourite horror movies featuring the deadliest survival of the fittest games know to man…
BEYOND THE GATES (2016, Jackson Stewart)
Kids from the VHS generation are bound to recall that time when board games began capitalizing on cutting edge tech with the release of 1991’s game changer, Nightmare. director Jackson Stewart, along with his co-writer, Stephen Scarlata, clearly shared the same secret love affair with this game as it’s the very lifeblood of Beyond the Gates
Planting both feet firmly in the VHS era, the film forges a canny, comical, and creepy concept, harnessing a portentous premise along the lines of The Ring whilst merging it with a more mature spin on the fun and frolics of R.L. Stine’s tales of terror.
When their father disappears under inexplicable circumstances, his two chalk and cheese sons, John (Williamson) and Gordon (Skipper), return to the family’s immense video rental store to clear everything away with the help of Gordon’s girlfriend, Margot (Grant). The ill-fated trio soon find the store’s rear office where they come across a retro Nightmare-ish board game called Beyond the Gates. As the game’s tape is still in the VCR unit, they can’t resist pressing “Play” and are soon enticed into rolling the dice by the beautifully creepy hostess, Evelyn (Crampton), who weirdly seems to be interacting with them in real time; and the only way they can discover what really happened to their father is to follow Evelyn’s ominous instructions to a “T.”
Much as was the case with the original game, as long as you are willing to embrace Scarlata and Stewart’s devilishly offbeat game plan for what it is, audiences can expect foreboding fun aplenty.
GAME OF DEATH (2017, Sebastien Landry and Laurence (BAZ) Morais-Lagace)
Sebastien Landry and Laurence (BAZ) Morais-Lagace’s Game of Death plays out like a fervently feral spin on Jumanji by way of Battle Royale and … Spring Breakers. Yes, you read that right and as mad of a mashup as that might sound, Seb and Baz’s Game of Death is THE “Gruemanji” flick horror fans were waiting for.
The film thrusts a bunch of sassy striplings into a gruesome game of life or death when they unwittingly test their wits against an obscure electronic board game. Devised by Sam Boucher, a bonafide game designer, the device itself is a thing of Mattel nightmares. In the film, players position their fingers on respective buttons to receive a pin prick and a few drops of their blood trickle towards the centre of the board where an on-screen message reveals how a grand total of 24 people must be killed as quickly as is humanly possible if they want to prevent the game from randomly “eliminating” players at will.
Ultimately, Game of Death is a tautly-paced, shockingly-provocative feral feast of a debut with the added appeal of having flung the door wide open to a potential sequel/franchise. Who knows? Maybe even Mattel will sit up and take note and hire Sam Boucher with a view towards shipping the REAL game out to stores just in time to blow kids’ minds this Christmas…
CIRCLE (2015, Aaron Hann, Mario Miscione)
In Circle, fifty people wake up in a dome-shaped black room and soon discover that a force that is killing them off, one at a time, every two minutes, is far from random: the “contestants” themselves are the ones making all the decisions. Then, once they realise that they do have some control over their outcome, a balloon debate ensues, touching on topics as diverse as illness and disability, illegal immigration, racism, homosexuality and nulliparity.
Addressing such diverse societal themes, Circle is just as thought-provoking as it is harrowing, something that provides a breath of fresh air in this now-crowded game horror sub-genre.
13 TZAMETI (2005, Géla Babluani)
Géla Babluani’s sensational debut sees his real-life brother, George, play Sebastien, a 22-year-old who, for diverse circumstances, decides to follow instructions that were originally intended for someone else, oblivious to where they might be leading him. All he really knows is that there is a serious amount of money up for the taking. And so, he unwittingly finds himself caught up in a cloak and dagger world where powerful men gamble on the lives of other strangers.
Sebastien becomes increasingly embroiled in this simple – but deadly – game that brings Takashi Miike most depraved moments to mind.
SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS (2001, Daniel Minahan)
The Contenders is a deranged reality television game show that blends a number of tropes we’ve seen in gems such as BATTLE ROYALE and The Running Man, all the while serving up a blunt reminder of the lengths people will go to to achieve fame and fortune. Directed by Daniel Minahan (‘Game of Thrones’, ‘House of Cards’), six randomly selected contestants must kill each other until only one champion remains. All for the sake of securing the best possible TV viewer ratings. Now in its seventh season, two-time champion Dawn hopes to retain her title… at all costs…