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Review: Shall We Play? (2020) – BITS

Stacy (Matreya Scarrwener) has been having issues. Having nightmares, acting strangely. Her parents are worried, but her therapist Dr. Malek (Ali Ghahary) seems hopeful. And she has support from her friends Emma (Michelle Creber, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), Jess (Jessica McLeod, Scary Movie 4, The Hollow Child) and, of course, Matt (Blake Williams).

She also spends a lot of time playing with a ouija board like phone app, which seems to have a connection to her nightmares. Things get much worse. After a night of drinking with Matt, she wakes to find he’s sent nudes of her to people all over town. It’s not long before the people from her nightmares and the app are calling to her, telling her they can take all her pain away.

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Films about technology and horror are nothing new.  We’ve had the likes of Evilspeak, FeardotCom, Cam, Apparition, Dreadout and now Shall We Play? Unfortunately, director Ann Forry and co-writer Emma Raine Walker don’t really do anything with the concept. The app itself is simply used as a portable ouija board, the fact it is an app is irrelevant. There’s one scene where it’s used somewhere you probably couldn’t bring a board. That and flashy graphics are the only differences.

This would have been disappointing but still tolerable if the rest of the film had compensated for it. But there’s really nothing new or special here. The plot is familiar, a bullied teen turns to the occult and things end badly. It’s not even told well, frequently relying on conversations between Emma and Jess or Stacy’s parents and Dr. Malek to deliver big, long doses of exposition.

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Shall We Play? also suffers from some huge problems in its plotting. Why do Emma and Stacy keep Jess around after she straight-up accuses Stacy of lying when she says she didn’t send the nude pictures out? Why, if Stacy’s condition is so bad that needs to be restrained after she’s committed, is her phone left in her room? Shouldn’t it and her other belonging be kept somewhere secure?

I could go on but I don’t like kicking a film like Shall We Play? when it’s down. Forry and Walker obviously were trying to make a good film and points about bullying and revenge porn. Unfortunately, they just didn’t do a very good job of it. It came off as more of a warning against using the occult than a condemnation of what Matt did to Stacy.

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Shall We Play? is screening as part of this years’ Blood in the Snow Film Festival. It will air on Super Channel Thursday, October 29th and repeat at midnight. You can find out more at the film’s website or Facebook page.

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