Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 34m
Director(s): Rebekah McKendry
Writer(s): Travis Seppala
Cast: Gino Anania, Alec Carlos, Megan Best, Nazariy Demkowicz, Verity Marks, Madison MacIsaac, Samantha Halas
Where To Watch: premieres Friday, September 15, 2023 on Shudder and AMC+
RAVING REVIEW: Director Rebekah McKendry was behind the 2022 Shudder movie GLORIOUS, one of my most recommended 2022 horror films. Can ELEVATOR GAME, her follow-up, strike gold again? This time, we’re drawn into a web of digital myths and fears. Amid our modern age, it calls us back to the oldest human instinct: curiosity. At its core is Ryan (Gino Anania,) whose determination to uncover the puzzling disappearance of his sister leads him to a group of internet personalities eager to clickbait the next haunting tale.
The ELEVATOR GAME, not just a name but the very soul of the story, invites participants on an inter-dimensional excursion, but with strict dos and don’ts. It's all mystical and surreal until one faces the haunting specter of the 5th Floor Woman, turning the intrigue into a nail-biting experience. With raw emotions and the urge for answers, Ryan pushes the online crew into the game to decipher the riddles surrounding his sister's disappearance. Yet, this desperate move unravels more shadows than they're prepared for.
As much as ELEVATOR GAME channels some age-old horror vibes, it occasionally falls into the trap of predictability. There are moments when the tension, instead of escalating, stalls, making one feel as though they're stuck in an elevator with a predictable playlist on a loop. Sometimes, our main cast must add depth as the plot gets lost amidst the cinematic landscape. An exploration into the psyche of its cast could have further enriched the narrative, elevating it to a higher floor of storytelling.
However, the movie shines in its casting choices. The talents of Gino Anania, Alec Carlos, and Nazariy Demkowicz herald the coming of a fresh, new era in horror cinema. As the director, Rebekah McKendry pilots this venture. Her efforts in crafting a chilling backdrop are evident, even if the story only sometimes rises to her atmospheric ambitions.
One can't help but appreciate the movie's unique approach in juxtaposing the mundane – a mere elevator ride – with the realms of the fantastical and fearsome. This cinematic concoction sparks a question: What drives us toward these perilous, heart-thumping encounters?
The Red World, presented as an eerie echo of our reality, offers a compelling promise yet sometimes doesn’t hold the viewer in its ghostly grip as firmly as one would hope. As the final credits roll, the open-ended feel might leave audiences stuck between excitement for potential sequels and a craving for clarity.
Throughout, McKendry's flair for horror is undeniable. Her adept intertwining of archaic fears with modern-day digital tales delivers a cinematic experience that resonates with tech-savvy audiences and those just seeking a good old scare. Steven River, a critic for HongKongFilmBlog.com, said it best: “Low budget horror flick doesn’t mean it’s not good.”
In conclusion, while ELEVATOR GAME serves up a potent brew of retro horror vibes, it might not always echo the resonances of its revered forebears. However, it's an undeniable reminder of the allure of the mystic and unknown. ELEVATOR GAME is a ride for those looking for an occasional thrill. It might seem a step short in depth for the hardcore horror buffs. But isn't curiosity what drives us to press that elevator button in the first place? Who knows what awaits on the next floor?
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[photo courtesy of SHUDDER, AMC+]
MY SAG-AFTRA/WGA STRIKE STATEMENT:
As an advocate for creators, actors, and writers, I firmly stand with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA in their current strike. The entertainment industry is built on these individuals' extraordinary talents, and their contributions must be appropriately recognized and rewarded. They deserve fair compensation, sensible work hours, and respect for their creative rights. I believe in the power of unity and collective action, and I'm steadfast in my support for their fight for better working conditions and fair remuneration. Together, we can shape a more equitable future in the entertainment world.
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