Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Quick Fire Review. Holy shit do we have a terrible movie for you today? We are taking a look at Battle Royale style horror – Headgame. Films like this are exactly why I started the Quick Fire Review section. It falls into that category of movies so bad they don’t deserve a full review. It feels, to me, like that is actually understating how bad Headgame really is. I can already tell you that it will be the lowest scoring review yet.
Released in 2018 but seeing some recent promotion on Prime Video. Rarely does something come along that is so perfectly bad in every department. From direction to camerawork to acting to sound production. This film is woeful at best. As always with our Quick Fire Reviews, we keep to strictly under 1,000 words. Not including this intro and headers, of course. Let’s take a look.
Headgame follows a group of people gathered together in an abandoned warehouse. Each of the members of the group has a camera grafted to their heads. A voice suddenly appears out of the silence. The group are told that they are participants in a game. They have 12 hours to find a way out. Only one person can survive. At the end of the 12 hours, the camera will release acid killing the remaining participants.
It’s pretty simple stuff and a familiar concept. There are a fair number of movies that follow a similar theme. The excellent Battle Royale jumps to mind. Hunger Games is another. You could probably include Squid Game as well, despite not being a movie. There are even a few lesser known examples, as well. How about the underrated Series 7: The Contenders? Though the latter is more of a dark comedy.
With that being said, this is a movie with a tried and tested formula. As long as you make the action interesting and the kills fun. You will likely do pretty well. Which makes it all the more baffling that Headgame is so utterly terrible. The question is. Just how many different ways can this movie suck? The answer is simple. In every possible way. There are so many issues to get through. Let’s take a look.
We will start with the premise. A bunch of rich people are tasked with taking a specific person along to the game. Some of the people are there purely to be cannon fodder. The others are athletes and people with specific talents. Sounds okay, right? Then why do none of the characters here actually use their specific talents? What does a tennis pro have that creates an advantage over normal people? Better hand eye co-ordination? Would somebody go out of their way to select a personal trainer as their representative? Does helping older women lose weight seriously suggest a talent for killing? I thought personal trainers tended to be rather nice, empathetic, people.
It all feels incredibly weak and that is only the start of the problems. Horrendous camera work immediately lets you know what you are in for. Within the first five minutes of the movie. A closeup, slow motion, panning shot of a character judders horribly. Cameras are shoved right up into people’s faces. This creates images that feel overly intimate and claustrophobic.
Sound production woes result in music so loud it is impossible to hear characters speak. Later scenes feature muffled audio and voices muddy with microphone interference. Horrible continuity issues hint at the lacklustre direction taking place. Scenes move from one to another seemingly out of sequence. It feels as though chunks of the film have been left on the cutting room floor. It is terribly messy.
On top of these technical issues. This is a movie you have seen hundreds of times before. Only, done much better. There is a desperate desire to channel the energy of the Saw films, here. In an attempt to capture the aforementioned movie’s aesthetic. Everything is covered by a misty, green, hue. Though the game is designed for entertainment and not punishment, as it is in Saw. Headgame is equally as eager to get to the violence. Things escalate pretty quickly. Our personal trainer and tennis pro are suitably vicious. I suppose this is something of a blessing, really. I wouldn’t want to have to endure what these writers would class as story development.
Kills are boring and rather silly. A few of them require desperate leaps of logic. The rest are just yawn inducing. Practical effects are pretty bad. Characters will suffer wounds that disappear minutes later. Acid burns make character’s faces look like a portion of ground beef. Knives are pulled out of people’s necks revealing themselves as props. It is very lacklustre. A big part of the issue with the kills is how little you will care. This is an awful cast. Almost completely unlikeable from top to bottom. It is incredibly difficult to invest in any of them bar one or two. A ham-fisted romance sub-plot leads to belly laughs for its absurdity. When combined with the terrible writing. It makes for a movie that is unintentionally hilarious.
Acting is pretty awful across the board. As far as the contestants go. Jamie Hill, as Jackie, is okay I suppose. Courtney Claghorn, as Paula, is actually decent. She was the only truly easy to root for character in the entire movie. The rest are so forgettable and poorly performed that you likely won’t care. Liv von Oelreich, as Leah, is particularly guilty of this.
The cast of villains mostly ranged from laughably bad to just plain bad. A couple are okay, though. Chris Hayes, as Kris, reminded me of a bargain bin Dave Bautista without the muscles. He seems to enjoy himself and does what he can with the poor writing. Leonard Roberts, as The Elder, is actually pretty convincing. Marina Orlova, as Mariel, seems to genuinely understand her character. She comes across much more confident than the rest of the cast. I particularly enjoyed a slip up involving her early in the movie. The narrator referred to her as her actual name rather than her character’s name, Mariel. Unfortunately, this is a cast and crew that severely lacks in talent.
Headgame is an awful movie. Plain and simple. There are so many negatives. Acting, writing, direction, camera work, plot, pacing, and action sequences. It is all absolutely awful. This is one of those movies that manages to be worse than you could actually imagine. As if the visage of character's running around with hockey pucks stuck to their head isn't bad enough. It is developed by a completely inept team. What's worse is that it isn't even so bad it's good. I would actually suggest you watch Head Games instead. It is a movie about sports related concussions. It will cause less trauma than this.