Death Count: Indie Film
Dir. Michael Su (2022)
Eight people are trapped in a torture chamber where they are forced to get the most “likes” from viewers. Those who don’t are offed in violent ways.
Social media, it is increasingly apparent, is a blight upon mankind, a narcissist’s paradise where the goal is to get the most likes or upvotes for seemingly no reason at all. There is no value to these achievements beyond the ego stroke that one receives from having someone else appreciate your content, and as more and more people find themselves under the spell of social media and handheld devices, the slow but inevitable march to the grave becomes paved with cute dogs, memes, and political “satire” (and I use that term loosely.) Of course, there are corners of the internet that are a bit more depraved, and as more content is consumed, those corners search for darker thrills and more extreme entertainment. Death Count is a film that explores these dark tendencies, and while it is not the first to explore this path, it is a disturbing, dark, and extreme look at internet voyeurism and the dangers inherent in the system.
Eight people are kidnapped and placed into individual cells, each broadcasted to the internet. The only thing furnishing the room is a box with random tools, and when The Warden, who is running the thing on closed circuit television, asks, each victim must choose a tool from the box and perform various self-injurious tasks. The participant who receives the most likes will spare themselves from elimination, while the one with the least likes receives a grisly and disgusting death for their troubles. The nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians” plays after each death, providing a disturbing theme song for the events. As the motives of the deranged Warden become clearer, we find out that each of these victims have a victim of their own.
The Warden does his best Jigsaw throughout, which is effectively deranged.
While this is certainly not the best made of these types of films, and the acting often leaves a bit to be desired, the deaths are gruesome and there is a ton of gory fun for any who appreciate that kinda thing. We’ve got acid burns, ripping flesh, and torn of fingernails, each showed in excruciating detail. Michael Madsen guest stars as a police officer who is searching for the room, and he is as hammy as he needs to be to help the film through its plot. The writing is lacking at times, especially noticeable during the scenes involving the police, and while it would be nice to say that Madsen is enough to save those scenes, he is indulging in a chance to overact throughout all of his on-screen appearances. That being said, most of these smaller films that tease an appearance by a big name star involve a 2-3 minute scene where they are either offed quickly or appear in a cameo role. Madsen is in a good bit of the film, and he plays at least a supporting role throughout the film.
There are a few critiques that you can have about the film, to be sure, and it’s difficult to ignore them when writing a review on the entire thing. I also think it is important, however, to recognize what this film is designed to showcase and how well it delivers on that premise. It’s torture porn in a way that I haven’t seen in a while, devoted solely to offing its victims in as gruesome a way as possible, and it delivers on that in spades. The blood flows rapidly, and there are plenty of scenes of death and dismemberment for even the hardest of gorehounds. To be honest, when watching a film like this, there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for. This isn’t a Saw-like, AAA film; it’s an indie joint, and it’s damn good for what it is. For all of the parts that its lacking, it makes up for those deficits in gory watchability.
Plus a fun role from the gorgeous Devanny Pinn!
The film is well made, the cinematography is appropriately dark and moody, and the gore genuinely is top notch through most of the film. The plot is concise and doesn’t wander, and the motivations of the killer is naturally twisted. As the film reaches its inevitable conclusion, we are led through a litany of torturous punishments and a critique on internet popularity contests. So many indie films are haphazard at best and a goddamn mess at worst, and this one manages to avoid succumbing to those problems. At the end of the day, it’s a relatively fun take on the dark sides of human nature and death as entertainment.
Who this movie is for: Gorehounds; Indie horror lovers; Correctional officers
Bottom line: There are a few small gripes about the film, but it’s at least as capable as 90% of other indie films you’ll come across. For what it is, which is a showcase of gory and gruesome fun, it delivers more than enough blood and guts to be a worthwhile watch. If you want to see a bunch of schoolteachers tear themselves apart, I highly recommend checking this film out. It’s a lot easier than setting up your own torture chamber.