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Stupid Games (2024) Review

“Play stupid games, wins stupid prizes.” It’s a saying almost as overused as “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t”. And in this film from directors Nicolas Wendl (Denise & Raymonde, Hovid Povid) and Dani Abraham (Tube Station, Knowing Aaron) and writer Tanner Adams, all involved should have heeded them.

A while back Jaxon (Saad Rolando, Everlast, Dave’s Last Night on Earth) and Celeste (Alyssa Tortomasi, Prisoner’s Daughter, Empress Deck, Aft) hooked up, and then she ghosted him. Now, out of the blue she’s invited him over for dinner, the catch is he has to bring two of his friends for her two roommates, Mia (Ashwini Ganpule, Lovely, First Impressions) and Riley (Cass Huckabay, Colonials, Outsiders). His buddy Rex (Gage Robinson, Keep Driving, Forever) is happy to join him but when their other friend backs out, they end up recruiting Stanley (Grant Terzakis, Top Gunner: Danger Zone, Planet Dune) the cable guy.

Stupid Games 8

When the power goes out during dinner, the guys see that as a great reason to retreat to the bedrooms, but the girls have a different kind of playing around in mind, they want to light some candles and play a board game called Quest for Truth, which has pentagram on the board. A pentagram surrounded by candles, what could possibly go wrong?

The game seems harmless enough, like a mashup of Two Truths and a Lie, Marry, Fuck, Kill and Trivial Pursuit. The players move around the board, taking task cards and doing as they say in a quest to spell out the game word. And then the tasks start to get progressively darker and the group’s mood starts to change.

Stupid Games 10

Shot in a week on a $10,000 budget, Stupid Games gets a lot of milage out of six people and for most of its running time, one location. The first act has some funny dialogue as the six of them have dinner, and we see what appears to be some attraction building between the four unattached members of the group during the game. Normally, I’m not impressed when a film takes until the hour mark to finally get to the scary stuff, but with Stupid Games, I actually didn’t notice. That should give you an idea of how well written and acted it is.

Stupid Games is also well done on a technical level and has the look and feel of a much higher budgeted feature. Cinematographer Christian Klein (Teardrop, Cam) makes the candle lit room look cozy and romantic until it needs to be dark and menacing. Those images are given excellent accompaniment by Darren Wonnacott’s (The Ghosts of Borley Rectory, Scare Attraction) score.

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All of this builds up to a tense final act that made me jump more than once as all hell breaks loose in the apartment and secrets beyond those that the cards ask for are revealed. There isn’t much in the way of effects, beyond some sound effects. That might be for the best, as a couple of the characters meet fates that are probably better left to the imagination than ruined by cheap effects.

In the end, Stupid Games is anything but stupid. It’s a well written and acted film that smartly works around its budgetary limitations. Yes, it takes a while for the horror to kick in, but it’s well enough written that you probably won’t notice, and in any case, the payoff is worth the wait.

Stupid Games is available on Mometu, a new free to watch streaming service, with plans to expand to other platforms in the near future. You can check the film’s Facebook page for updates.

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