Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Samara Weaving is an Australian actress on the rise. A couple of years ago, she was in McG’s The Babysitter (2017). That film was essentially a horror-comedy in the vein of Zombieland (2009) or Shaun of the Dead (2004). That McG flick involved a person trapped in a house and a group of people chasing after that person to kill them, as part of a death cult that wants a human sacrifice. This film is basically doing the same thing. The difference is that the house in question here is a mansion, owned and inhabited by rich people. The filmmakers are perhaps trying to say something about the one-percent and the lengths wealthy people will go to hold onto money, power or status. It’s not an incredibly new theme. Having the rich as the bad guys or demonizing the wealthy or the pursuit of wealth is a cliché that goes back to Biblical times. Literally, greed is a sin from the Bible.
That theme or any theme isn’t really the driving force here though. The film is more about extracting laughs and some thrills from this premise. If one thinks about this premise, that of a person trapped in a house or a confined space with other people in that same space trying to kill that person, there are limitations but also opportunities for how a person has to try to survive and escape. This movie comes up with some clever sequences, but I wasn’t as impressed as I was in The Babysitter, which is just one example. I also didn’t think the humor was as good or as twisted. The whole thing could be considered a kind of gory chess game and I just don’t think the chess moves are as inventive here as in The Babysitter. In fact, other films were better like Adam Wingard’s You’re Next (2013), which is again a film about a woman trapped in a house with people trying to kill her, or Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room (2016), which is about a band trapped in a nightclub with people to trying to kill them. The mechanics of how they positioned characters and had them try to figure out how to navigate out of this insane situation were more intriguing than this movie ultimately.
Mark O’Brien (City on a Hill and Halt and Catch Fire) co-stars as Alex Le Domas, the heir to a gaming dynasty. He’s the son to a family that owns and runs one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. Le Domas owns not only board games but also sports teams. The family is one of the richest families, presumably in the United States, if not the world. However, the family has a ritual, as part of what could be considered a death cult. The ritual is that every time a person marries into the family, that person has to play a game. The person chooses a card from a cursed box. If the card says “Hide and Seek,” then the person is hunted and killed on an altar. Alex witnesses his family do this when he’s a little boy, either 5 or 6, and ultimately he rejects his family. Yet, 30 years later, he falls in love with Grace, played by Weaving, and wants to marry her, but he knows his family will put her through this ritual.
Now, there are all kinds of logic gaps when it comes to this. The first simply is that Alex doesn’t have to marry Grace. If he believes that there is a chance that his family could kill her in their insane ritual, why would he subject her to it? In the film, he never tells her because he thinks he’ll lose her, but it doesn’t explain why he would marry her when he could still be with her without marriage. There are plenty of people who live their whole lives together without getting married. What he does is tantamount to what Chris Pratt’s character does in Passengers (2016). His intention isn’t for her to die but his actions can directly lead to her unwanted death. At least, this film doesn’t go the full route of that 2016 flick and try to justify his actions and turn him into a sympathetic love interest when he is basically a murderer.
This film also has what feels like two endings. Both endings are right next to each other. The first one I enjoyed. The second one I didn’t. Basically, the first ending is actually a more brutal ending because it exposes how horrible the people involved are. The second ending lets them off the hook a bit by reinforcing a supernatural entity threatening them in some Faust-like deal. I suppose it could also reinforce the blind devotion to a religious belief regardless of the collateral damage or the innocent lives lost, which is a theme worth noting, but it still lets the people off the hook a bit, all for an easy joke.
Rated R for bloody images, language and some drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.