Dripping with tension and sexual nastiness, this thriller/horror number is a cool yet alarming tale. Showcasing two worthy and engaging females as the leads helps the movie in some ways, using their wiles to get the job done but then that’s reverting back to the male gaze and not wholly strengthening them as figures.
Father and architect Evan (Keanu Reeves) is home for the weekend on a work project while his wife and two children are enjoying a beach break. One rainy night a knock on the door leads him to inviting in two pretty drenched ladies. Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas). They make themselves comfortable and soon Evan finds himself part of their sordid game of male associated revenge.
Now, apparently this movie is a modern retelling of a 1977 film titled, ‘Death Game’ which I haven’t seen but this strikes up vivid similarities to another game associated movie, namely ‘Funny Games’ which utilises that shady housebound tension and two creepy antagonists. For the first part at least this movie keeps in trend with the sinister feeling of the Haneke release but then it becomes a series of bombarding scenes with over the top crazy reveling that it loses the subtlety of a well packaged thriller/horror.
Peter and Paul these mad madams ain’t, Bel and Genesis are a solid team with that similar sense of not knowing where they’re from, what they do and what they’re about which makes for a suitable gray area but they become so incessant in destroying Evan and his home that they lose any real threat or power, anyone could do that, their plan seems to trickle down a drain as they forgo some games to trash the joint. It of course symbolises the possible destruction of Evan’s marriage but the sadistic nature of their fun side was the better angle to keep with.
Eli Roth along with Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolas Lopez do work on a good first half of the script, where lines and ideas feel thought over, by the end it’s just out and out bullying with Reeves subjected to deranged screams and swearing or muffled screams and swearing which makes you feel a screenplay was absent. The revenge idea about men and their wired process with women is the moral of the story and a funny addition of the story is the Facebook like which adds a bucket of salt to the gaping wound.
Eli Roth knows how to direct his sick sort of horrors, the slow build up of the neighbourhood aids the following frenzied attacks and the repeated tracking shots of the house give the corridor a new disturbing look each time around. It can by the end feel like a glorified joke, the silliness of the girls actions being a loose peg in an otherwise solid structure. The calm yet worrying scenes in the beginning are the strongest, Evan hopping from seat to seat in the presence of two robed beauties shows the elevated sense of discomfort he’s having in his very own home which is crafted nicely from their initial arrival to the morning after.
Keanu Reeves is no John Wick though he’s fun as the dad and interesting enough when welcoming the girls in with his life, vinyls etc. The weak and major dip is when he begins losing the plot, shouting and cursing like no tomorrow which feels almost like he’s a cartoon. Ana de Armas is disarming as the more entrapping and somehow I feel innocent of the two, a weird balance of notions to play but she does it well, her mix of English and Spanish being the same change in language that ‘Funny Games’ employed for their baddies. Beautiful, bold and tipping over into a weird daddy’s girl zone, de Armas is frighteningly good. Lorenza Izzo is clearly the leader, conjuring up game shows and setting up rules for Evan to follow and fail. There’s a mean glint in her eye and you always tell she’s plotting away. The two of them are at times annoying and you can’t even try and like them by the end but the actresses are dynamic.
It may be a hot sort of mess but it does what it sets out for in being an over the top ride of tension. The opening and first encounter are very strong and that suspense of mystery works in good favour if only Roth had carried on that way and played down some of the girls antics.