Last month I read all three of L.J. Smith’s Forbidden Game novels. A group of friends get trapped in a game and must outsmart a Norse entity to save their own lives.
I loved it. And how the books haven’t been turned into movies is beyond me. But I have been addicted to find anything and everything that fits into a similar trope. If anything, I’ll accept Clue.
When I read the synopsis of Dead Body, I really thought “This is it!” A group of friends at a cabin in the woods start playing a night game, and someone kills them off. It sounded perfect.
But unfortunately, Dead Body isn’t perfect. At all.
Future Ivy Leaguer Dominic prepares to entertain his former high school friend Ilsa for the weekend. His plan is it for just to be the two of them, and the two Japanese exchange students. Though plans go awry when Ilsa arrives with her friend and much older boyfriend. Followed by three more boys.
Dominic begins to panic, but the kids settle in and begin to party for the night. Eventually, they all begin to talk about their future plans as they’ve all just graduated high school (though all clearly much older). Dominic is upset because he’s forth on the waiting list. But Ilsa’s boyfriend Dwayne doesn’t care. And neither do I.
Dwayne mentions that all of his friends from high school are “dead” or, as he vaguely acknowledges “dead to him”. This is quite a clever bit of the script, but don’t worry – this is never brought up again.
When they become bored of the dead people talk, ‘nerdy’ Rumor (played by a poor man’s Tom Lenk) suggests playing Dead Bodies. The game is played like this: one of the group is chosen to be the killer when slips of paper are picked. Everyone must then hide. The killer must then go around and pinch people, “killing them”. Then if someone finds a dead body, they must shout “DEAD BODY” and everyone then convenes to discuss who they think the killer is.
So the group begin to play, but is interrupted when Ilsa’s friend Sarah sees one of the exchange students ‘dead’ with ketchup on his throat. They reset and Sarah is dragged into the basement by exchange student Mariko. Then, unsurprisingly, the real bodies begin to pile up.
When Ilsa breaks into a locked bed room, she finds Mariko, Kenji and Dominic’s dead bodies on a bed. As no one has cell reception (yet can still text each other), they have no choice but to wait until they can drive to the police. But Rumor comes to the conclusion that since there are no signs of forced entry, the killer has to be one of them.
The kids then proceed to blame each other for various reasons, playing up to their stereotypes. Sarah is found and everyone jumps to the conclusion that she’s the killer. They handcuff her to the bed where the corpses lay, but she manages to escape. One of of their group, the druggie whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, runs into the woods, he gets his head hacked off. Then Rumor gets a hook up his face.
By now, only Isla, her boyfriend Dwayne and Ilsa’s sweetheart Marcus are left. They find their van, but realise it has been vandalised. They also find Sarah, who is about to reveal something to them, but Dwaye shoots her with a nail gun.
After that little event, Marcus and Ilsa suddenly think the killer is Dwayne and kill him. But they’re clearly wrong and Marcus is attacked. And finally it’s to the end. But it’s clear from the very beginning of the film who the killer is, so it’s hardly surprising when they have their big reveal.
And that, I think, is the biggest shame about the film. Who-dun-its are some of my favourite books and movies to read, but they have to have more than one convincing killer. It’s so clearly one person that it’s not every interesting. Plus the motivation of the killer is so ridiculous and impossible, it’s hard to watch.
That ending, man. It really drags itself out. But perhaps it will catch someone else by surprise, so I won’t spoil it here.
Though it’s a fun concept, Dead Body is basically every horror film you’ve ever seen. And on one hand, it makes it clear that it knows this. These sort of self-aware horror films can be incredible. But what’s the point if you don’t do anything clever or new with it? It just comes off as lazy writing.
To the movie’s credit, there are some genuinely disgusting moments that are horrific to watch in a hide-behind-your-hands sort of way. So if you’re in to that, you might just like this enough.
As for me? I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for my Forbidden Game adaptation to come along.