I love stories centred around games. Not necessarily talking about Monopoly here, but the games with twists, turns, and manipulation. They can be so much fun. Unfortunately, good ones seem to be far and few between.
One of my favourite book series is by YA author L. J. Smith. Her Forbidden Game trilogy is so fun. A group of teens get sucked into a supernatural game where their nightmares are brought to life. I’ve said it a million times, but I’ll say it once more: this series deserves an adaptation.
I think because these types of stories (particularly in books) attract me so much, I often feel the disappointment more in the unsuccessful attempts. Unfortunately, Deadly Games is one of those disappointments.
After her sister’s death, young journalist Keegan returns to her hometown. There she’s confronted with her past: her mother, her strained relationship with her sister, long-lost friends. But when she learns that her sister’s death might not have been an accident, Keegan becomes concerned.
This movie plays out more like a soap opera than a traditional slasher. We learn plenty about relationships and infidelities, but very little about the characters themselves beyond who they’re sleeping with. I’m surprised this is a movie from 1982 and not something produced in the late 60s. It feels incredibly old and dated.
Like in Blood Harvest directed by Bill Rebane, we have a red herring in a slightly-odd Vietnam War veteran. Billy is the man in this instance. He’s a bit odd and people generally don’t like him. None of his behaviours shows why this is the case. They just don’t like him. We’re supposed to suspect him, but it’s just so obvious that it’s not.
When the killer’s identity is finally confirmed it’s…really anticlimactic. I was hoping for a twist, and I just never did get it.
There’s not much else to say about Deadly Games, really. It’s just so boring for the most part. However, one thing really stood out to me, and that was the performances. There are several pretty memorable characters here: Keegan, Billy, the couple from the diner (the husband played by a very charismatic Dick Butkus!!!), and the ditzy friend. I loved them all.
I think they especially stood out because they had charisma, or their characters were at least written with a bit of something. The rest of the cast blurred together so much. I was constantly rewinding, trying to figure out who was who. It’s a shame that the more fun members of the friend group were dropped. Sometimes large casts don’t pay off in slashers. Considering this one didn’t even have a high body count, I can’t imagine why the script wasn’t distilled down a bit more.
The name of the movie is so good and enticing, that its story is a letdown. I was expecting some manipulation or maybe someone so obsessed and corrupted by a board game that they’ve decided to bring it to life.
Clearly, this is my own fault. Never set expectations for something just based on reading a title. It will never lead to anything good!