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Deadly Games
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by Jack Sommersby

"Gamey Game"
1 stars

This is one those cases of an older film out of print on home video being a godsend, believe me.

The dreadful 1982 Deadly Games might just be the most somnolent serial-killer thriller ever to disgrace the silver screen. With a plot so thin you could pen it on the back of a matchbook; with characters so woodenly uninteresting you could mistake them as mannequins; with camerawork so mediocre the already-negligible material gains absolutely nothing from being filmed; and with a woeful whodunit angle as easy to solve as two-plus-two, the overall whole is so thin and lackadaisical it's indeed quite the miracle that it actually managed to stick to celluloid. Set in a small rural town, the proceedings kick off with an attractive woman returning home at night and stepping out on her terrace topless; when she goes back inside a black-clad fiend with a ski mask dispatches her by pushing her out her three-story window. The manner of death suggests suicide, but the police chief doubts that being that no note was left behind; also doubting this is the woman's younger sister who comes back to town after a long absence. The two, right out of the cinematic playbook, begin a flirtatious rapport. Also thrown into the mix is the policeman's strange Vietnam-veteran pal who runs a shaggy theatre that plays low-grade horror flicks; during downtime the two play the same kind of weird-looking board game that we saw the killer play during the opening credits. Suffice to say, the culprit, who's not stopping at just one victim, must be one of them. (Worth noting is that this barely-glimpsed game has no real organic bearing to the goings-on -- it might as well be Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly for all the must-have-left-it-at-home relevance.)

But don't expect a tantalizingly suspenseful tale with nifty clues dexterously laid throughout, for the inept writer/director, Scott Mansfield, whose feature-film debut this is, blatantly telegraphs all his punches. Especially in the uncouth highlighting of the stranger of the men as the kind of blindingly-obvious red herring that, like a true killjoy of a storyteller, assures us it can't possibly be him. With a minimum of gore and sex and a very low body count, Mansfield's obviously going for something of the character-driven variety, but being that the characters are a snooze, there isn't anything satisfyingly substituting for those exploitive elements -- rather than well-milked and sustained suspense, all we get is an amorphous array of inconsequential gab that in no way shape or form progresses the stalled-out story that emptily plays out like it were placebo-injected. Not helping matters in the slightest is the cruddy cinematography that looks as if each and every scene were lit with nothing more than fifty-watt bulbs, along with an annoyingly shrieking music score that tries to elicit way more in the way of tension than Mansfield is even remotely capable of delivering. On the acting front, Sam Groom is pleasant but boring as the cop, as the vet Steve Railsback fails at emanating an aura of danger the role calls for, and as the heroine Jo Ann Harris is way too plucky and extroverted and lacking the confidence that the camera will get the performance. And topping everything off is what is most definitely the film's nadir: a nausea-inducing montage overlaid with an unbearably fluffy easy-listening song that follows the characters as they do pleasant things one nice afternoon, while the unwitting audience is left in a stupor aghast at something so aesthetically asinine that dozing off during it would be the nicest in the way of a life-saving remedy. Suffice to say, with more than its share of crater-size shortcomings, Deadly Games rolls snake eyes.

Super-cool poster art; vicious-bad film.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20244&reviewer=327
originally posted: 02/04/10 00:45:38
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User Comments

4/01/10 art a HALLOWEEN COPYCAT! 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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