THE FRIENDSHIP GAME l levelFilm | January 3, 2023
Starring: Annette Reilly, Brendan Meyer, Dylan Schombing, Jennifer Copping, Kaitlyn Santa Juana, Kelcey Mawema, Lynn Whyte, Maria Hart, Miranda Edwards, Miriam Smith, Peyton List
Directed By: Scooter Corkle
A group of teenagers in a small town discover a strange object that tests the strength of their friendship.
REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
The Friendship Game is the first new release of 2023 I’ve watched, and it can only go up from this uninspired and narratively messy horror movie that offered minimal scares or little entertainment value.
Horror movies can work on extremely simple premises with good execution, such as a deadly game that is wreaking havoc on a group of individuals. If that is the route that is being taken, strong characters are needed to invest the audience in the story as there is usually no secret as to where the story is heading. Unfortunately, The Friendship Game has paper thin characters that the audience never gets to know, so when their lives are put in jeopardy, it merely feels like the film is going through the motions rather than a terrifying experience.
The story is focused around a group of teenage friends who play a game they find at a garage sale called “the friendship game”. The game requires them to divulge the deepest desires to the game, and they win by remaining friends. However, as their deepest desires begin to come true, one of their friends goes missing, which leads them to believe that the game is something far more sinister than they originally thought.
The screenplay constantly jumps around in time and shifts character perspectives in the first half, to the extent that it is disorientating and prevents any development of the main characters from occurring. There are pieces of the story that are intentionally left unrevealed at this point, for the purpose of a larger reveal later on, which is fine, but when it constantly references those pieces of information, it’s like that annoying inside joke that everyone is talking about that you are left out of.
By the time the film reaches its second half, the secrets are revealed as the game makes its deadly move against the characters, but it's not remotely scary. The editing is frantic, with lots of visual misdirects as the game constantly causes the character to question whether what they are experiencing is real or not, which makes it hard for the audience to get invested in the story. Especially with a side plot revolving around a young boy hacking webcams and spying on the group of friends, which despite being heavily featured in the first half, has little payoff in the second half of the film when it is largely forgotten. Then the film has the most confusing ending, suddenly playing with the concept of multiple realities, preventing the terrifying and brutal ending that this little horror film needed to truly scare the audience.
Nor does the cast help, as none of the young actors have a screen presence that is able to elevate the film’s writing to make for an entertaining experience. Fans of Cobra Kai may want to tune in for Peyton List who stars as the main character, but other than that there is no real star power to hold the film together.
The film has one good jump scare, but it's too little too late in this film which otherwise offers little thrills, and despite a very short run time, feels like it drags on and on. It truly is not a good film, which comes as no surprise as it is being given a January release here in Canada, but it also provides the promise that films this year can only go up from here. Unfortunately not joining the list of truly outstanding horror films that we were treated to in 2022, The Friendship Game is your generic, forgettable horror film that has little entertainment value that you can easily miss and wait for one of the many exciting horror films still to be released this year.