A group of strangers converge in an office, where they’ve been gathered to participate in a mysterious lottery. It’s unclear what the prize is, but they are taken into a room where they are introduced to a mysterious host.
And then the games begin, pitting person and person for disturbingly high stakes. The group gets caught up in the push-pull of winning and losing, and their thirst for dominance blinds them to just what they’re risking.
Director Riyad Barmania, along with co-writers Stuart Ashen and Dan Tomlinson, have create a stylized, uncanny horror film whose dread and fear have nothing to do with creatures, supernatural entities, ghosts or the usual suspects. Instead, it’s the frighteningly short route humanity can take to bloodthirsty ruthlessness, and how easily manipulated they can be to get there.
There is very little dialogue in the film, and overall the film eschews realism, dropping any pretense of seeming like part of the everyday reality most of us know.
With the relative silence of the film and the focus on the group dynamic, it instead resembles a fable or fairy tale in feel — and retains much of the darkness and violence of the original tales. The performances, too, are arch, stylized and compelling, particularly by actors Matthew Stogdon and Millie Reeves, who play a set of “waiters” who host the game from beginning to its grisly end.
The film’s hermetic world is rendered in glossy, composed visuals that seem pared-down and minimal, whether it’s in the set design or the lighting. Yet the few flourishes are bold and vivid, and gesture towards the surreal, combining both an antiseptic modernism and Victoriana that makes for a unique visual experience.
Into this dreamlike, almost Lynchian world, the group of lottery players vie for… what, exactly, no one quite knows yet. But as the game goes on, it’s hard not to get caught up in trying to figure out its rules, and just what the prize is. But the slow dawning of realization is a well-paced reveal, with its deliberate evenness inciting an incremental but inexorable sense of horror and dread, for both the loser and the viewer.
The premise of “Another Game” is almost sci-fi in its resemblance to a thought experiment, but with its sense of suspense — and its emphasis on squeamishness — it’s undeniably horrific, and a frankly nasty piece of work. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s so well-executed in craft that it compels viewers to keep watching — though by the end, they’ll likely be peeking through covered eyes — and perhaps even lose their lunch.