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  • Rev Horror

Stupid Games

Dir. Nicolas Wendl & Dani Abraham (2024)

A woman throws a dinner party to evaluate her one night stand and his friends, where the group accidentally unleashes an evil force.

I love board games, but I can't ever seem to find anyone to play with. After watching films like Stupid Games, it kinda makes me happy that I have no friends with the same predilections, because they're not all happy funtime. There's nothing new or inventive about a film focused around a board game, even within the horror genre, but I tend to really enjoy movies like this and, thankfully, Stupid Games was no exception. An indie thriller with a supernatural focus, the film deals with themes of witchcraft, past trauma, and shitty people in a refreshingly compelling way.

Celeste (Alyssa Tortomasi) had a one night stand with Jaxon (Saad Rolando, ghosting him afterwards, so he is surprised when she invites him to a dinner party at her house. There's only one catch: he must invite two of his friends to come along to match up with her two girlfriends who will also be attending. When one of Jaxon's buddies drops out, he and his roommate Rex (Gage Robinson) invite his apartment's handyman, Stanley (Grant Terzakis), to come along. Celeste and her friends Riley (Cass Huckabay) and Mia (Ashwini Ganpule) want to play an obscure board game, and when the power goes out, they insist on playing anyway. Surprise surprise, the board game isn't quite as innocent as it may seem on the surface, opening a doorway to an evil presence that threatens to ruin the party.

Stupid Games is a fairly typical setup, inspired by 80's and 90's horror and with a premise that feels like a sendup of movies like Night of the Demons or even Jumanji. The payoff is where the film really shines, with a ton of subversions on what you'd expect throughout. It's darkly comedic, depicting the most awkward dinner party of all time in an extremely cringeworthy way. The actors all do a great job, despite almost all playing incredibly unlikeable characters, and the film refreshingly avoids trying to give terrible people redeeming qualities. It's very well done indie horror with a sprinkling of humor, containing a nice balance of both while maintaining its watchability despite some periods of slowness. The suspense beats are well played, and the tension created by the twists and turns of the game are fantastically handled by directors Nicolas Wendl and Dani Abraham.

Especially impressive was the way the film managed to present an entire film in a dimly lit apartment and somehow avoided the common pitfall of making the action impossible to see. Darkness in horror movies is so damn frustrating, and it's nice to see a film actually pay attention to its audience and understand that we're smart enough to know that our characters are sitting in the dark without having to make everything completely invisible. It seems like a strange thing to give kudos for, but this is an especially irritating trend that even Hollywood movies tend to embrace, and it's wonderful to see someone buck it.

It does, however, drag at times, though it never feels like a chore. It's a while before we actually find out what's going on, though it's not particularly hard to guess where the plot is leading. It's also not particularly scary, which is not a terrible thing because of the film's blend of comedy and horror, though it does have a few jumpy moments that are worth waiting for. It's definitely unsettling at times, which is a hard thing to pull off for what is basically a bottle film with a very narrow plot. The concept of a supernatural entity forcing people to play a game for their survival is a good one, and while it's nothing you haven't seen before, it's still a lot of fun to watch unfold. Indie films are hard to come by, but this one is good enough that I'd love to see it get wider distribution, and if you get the chance to watch, you definitely should.

Who this movie is for: Supernatural horror lovers, Indie horror superfans, Garden gnome enthusiasts

Bottom line: Stupid Games struggles at times with a slow plot and never really succeeds in its attempts to terrify, but it's still an excellently done indie horror comedy/thriller with a ton to love. There are a few tense moments, especially in the third act, and it's well done from top to bottom, a rarity in the indie film world. It's not a movie that will knock your socks off, but it's an infinitely watchable film that's one you should be watching anyway. The cast is good, the writing is good, and it checks all the boxes you need for a Check this one out if you get the chance.

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