March 29, 2024

DARKGAME Has Been Played Before (and that's okay)

DARKGAME (Blu-ray)
2024 / 100 min
Available at
Review by Mr. Bonnie😽

If you have never seen or don’t recall the movie, Untraceable, it’s a 2008 thriller about a serial killer who kills his victims on the internet. The more viewers that visit the site, the faster these people die. Taking place in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, it’s a repeated race against time to find this guy, who also taunts the FBI team assigned to the case. While no classic, I thought the film was better than its box office numbers and critical consensus suggested.

The writers of DarkGame must have thought so, too, because not only does it feature a very similar premise, the story also takes place in Portland, Oregon. One big difference here - besides the budget and star power - is that this killer chooses his victims at random, whereas the one in Untraceable was driven by revenge. That aspect renders this one a bit more disturbing, though the death scenes - while pretty graphic - aren’t nearly as drawn-out or sadistic.

The unnamed antagonist (Andrew P. Stephen) is certainly sadistic, though. Never seen without a mask, he hosts a dark web “game show” called Russian Roulette, where “contestants” are forced to participate in various gruesome contests while viewers bet on the outcome. The highest wagerer gets to choose how the loser will die. Meanwhile, brooding Portland cop Ben (Ed Westwick) and his squad desperately (and repeatedly) try to trace his location and stop him, which proves to be very difficult. And of course, once the killer learns Ben is heading the investigation, he makes things personal.

Spring Training takes a dark turn.
The narrative shifts between Ben’s investigation (while clashing with the FBI) and Katia (Natalya Tsvetkova), one of the kidnapped contestants imprisoned in a room with several others who are waiting for the right moment to fight back and escape. While not particularly original, DarkGame is fast-paced and manages to create a lot of genuine tension in certain scenes. It also features a compelling, cryptically funny antagonist. Performed with gusto by Stephens, he’s the best part of the film. The remaining cast bring earnestness to their characters, most of whom seem lifted from other movies, right down to the boneheaded FBI agent “taking over the case.” 

The film is efficiently directed by Howard J. Ford, who’s kinda made a career out of making movies that never win awards for originality, but are generally well made and entertaining in the moment. Similarly, DarkGame is a decent race-against-time thriller on a limited budget. The door is even left open for a sequel, which I wouldn’t be opposed to.

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