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March 22, 2024 / Mometu

Starring: Cass Huckabay, Alyssa Tortomasi, Saad Rolando, Grant Terzakis, Gage Robinson, Ashwini Ganpule, Larsen Deane

Directed By: Nicolas Wendl, Dani Abraham

Set to captivate audiences, this harrowing tale follows a group of friends who become ensnared in a deadly game – where the stakes are nothing less than their sanity and survival – after they unknowingly unleash a malevolent force.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Stupid Games plays with a conventional horror plotline, but thanks to a great creative vision that effectively uses its cast and atmosphere to maximize the story’s tension and scares, this horror movie is anything but stupid.

Independent filmmaking is easier today thanks to the easy access to filmmaking equipment, but it is truly incredible what can be made on small budgets these days. Case and point: Stupid Games. Shot in one week on a micro budget of only $10,000. While it feels like a small budget film, it never for a second feels that small as the filmmaking team throws back to the tone of the horror films of the 1990s with an attractive young cast of actors, a deadly game with lots of chills that will go straight down your spine. What ensues is a brisk moving, entertaining and at times downright scary ride that is full of young, promising talent in the industry successfully terrifying viewers.

Despite being set in one small location, there is never a second where writers and directors Nicolas Wendl, Dani Abraham and Tanner Adams let that get in their way. Using a dimly lit location, where the power just conveniently happens to go out for our characters and they are forced to use candlelight to continue their game night, there is an eerie atmosphere throughout the film. Building upon that eeriness are the practical effects, smart makeup design choices and costumes to help build the scares. While there are not a ton, each scare is timed perfectly to a heightened moment in the script where the audience is hanging on its every word, when instead they get a surprise to set them on edge. It all works together with a strong story, that while you think you may know the direction it is heading, you really are not prepared for what Wendl, Abraham and Adams have next in store for you. There is no doubt the story feels familiar, as it's a trope we have seen done before within the horror genre, but the writers find something exciting and unique that puts a new spin on it, ensuring that you are in for a scary good time. The result is an engaging, smart film that takes you on one thrilling ride that will have you watching on edge from start to finish. There is clearly talent with this creative, and you could only imagine what they are capable of cooking up with a larger budget, because what they did on a $10,000 budget is truly incredible.

There is no doubt that the creative team is cooking up something great, but the cast truly elevates it to the next level. Featuring a strong ensemble cast of relatively unknown actors who are on screen for the entirety of the film, there is not a weak performance in sight. As an ensemble, the chemistry between them is wicked as the male actors capture that youthful energy of friends looking for a fun night out and some romantic interaction, while the female actors are sweet enough while indicating that they may have a far more sinister reason for inviting these young men over. Personally, I thought that Grant Terzakis, Cass Huckabay and Gage Robinson were the highlights as Stanley, Riley and Rex respectively. Terzakis captures the slight social awkwardness of Stanley beautifully while infusing him with an intelligence that allows him to discover that not everything is as it seems quicker than his friends. It’s immediately evident that Terzakis is one talented actor as he steals the film whenever the focus is on his character, marking the second impressive performance I’ve yet to seen from him after the short film Hometown Boys. Huckabay is a delightful mix of sweet, seductive and sinister as Riley, while Robinson brings the party to life as Rex and plays the attractive bro-esque character perfectly. While they may be playing stupid games, there are no stupid acting decisions made by the cast.

The saying may be “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”, but there is nothing remotely stupid about watching Stupid Games. In fact, it is a thrilling, often unnerving and down right scary independent horror film that is guaranteed to get your heart racing. Playing with a smart story that puts a fun and unique twist on a common horror plotline, the talented cast featuring scene stealing performances from Grant Terzakis and Gage Robinson and excellent direction makes Stupid Games one terrifyingly fun watch.

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