Play Dead (2022) Movie Review – Horror on Tubi

Horror, Thriller | 106 Min
Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review
  • Director: Patrick Lussier
  • Actors: Bailee Madison, Jerry O'Connell, Chris Butler, Chris Lee, Jorge-Luis Pallo
  • Writers: Simon Boyes, Adam Mason
  • Producers: Lucas Jarach, Bradley Pilz, Johannes Roberts
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Violence, Injury Detail, Language, Nudity
  • Horror, Thriller | 106 Min

Criminology student Chloe fakes her own death to break into a morgue in order to retrieve a piece of evidence that ties her younger brother to a crime gone wrong. Once inside she discovers that a sadistic coroner is using the corpses for his sick and twisted business and when he realises that Chloe still has a pulse a terrifying game of cat and mouse ensues.

Welcome to Knockout Horror. It’s time for another addition to our Horror on Tubi feature. Today we will be reviewing cat and mouse horror, thriller Play Dead from 2022. Directed by Patrick Lussier who you may know as the director of the fairly crappy 2009, 3D, remake of My Bloody Valentine. This movie takes us inside of a morgue. Stretches the realms of believability to a level rarely scene in thrillers. And embarrasses itself on a number of occasions. 

If that sounds good to you, read on! Oh, and before we start. We have also put together a Play Dead Horror Ending Explained article. So if you have watched this and need some help with some of the details. Why not check it out? It’s not spoiler free, unlike this review. So only read after you have watched the movie. Let’s go! 

June is Horror on Tubi Month

If you are new here then you probably won’t know that June is “Low Budget Horror on Tubi” month. For the entirety of this month, whenever we watch a movie. It will be scraped from the bottom of Tubi’s shoe. We are only picking the movies with the worst names, the cheapest looking covers and the dumbest sounding plots. I won’t be reading reviews beforehand. I will simply be picking the movie, watching and bringing the review straight to you.

So far, there has been a lot of what you might expect. Awful, vascular, anal prolapses with barely a redeeming quality in sight. We have fallen asleep watching Something Walks in the Woods and The Sleepless Unrest. Laughed at the low effort mess that is Chest and been underwhelmed by Bed Rest.

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

Contrary to my expectations, however. We have also been incredibly shocked at how enjoyable ReSet, Lexi and Death of a Vlogger were. That’s without mentioning the genuinely fantastic Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism. I wasn’t expecting to like any of these movies. The fact that I genuinely enjoyed and recommended them blindsided me completely. Well, today we are going to get back on track with Play Dead.

Yet Another Low Budget Tubi Horror

To be honest, I suppose the above statement isn’t exactly true for Play Dead. I mean, it has a director that has made a well known horror in the past. It appears to have a hair and makeup department. The budget stretched to LED lighting and they managed to cast Jerry O’Connell as a sinister coroner. I don’t actually know if this movie counts at all.

Still, there are a lot of other boxes that Play Dead ticks. Terrible plot? Check! Awful acting? Check. Minority actors cast exclusively as bad guys? Check. This movie does so much wrong. I mean, the plot alone is pretty ridiculous. After attempting to commit an armed robbery. A teenager needs the help of his older sister to retrieve a cellphone that will implicate him in the crime.

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

The only problem? The cellphone was taken to the morgue with the dead body of his accomplice. Breaking in doesn’t appear to be an option so it’s time for something altogether more ridiculous. The siblings score some Propofol and put their plan into action. Yes, seriously!

A Thriller With No Vital Signs

Morgues make a fairly common venue for horror movies. We have the fantastic Autopsy of Jane Doe, the watchable Corpse of Anna Fritz, the terrible Afterlife and a few others. Whereas many of them are pretty decent and Afterlife has Christina Ricci in the buff for over an hour. Play Dead has absolutely nothing to offer. 

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

After injecting herself with propofol and passing out under a bridge. Our protagonist bucks the trend of dying from such endeavors. Instead waking up fresh as a daisy, feeling tremendously refreshed, on a slab in the local morgue. Obviously wanting to preserve her dignity from all of those pervy corpses. She grabs a sheet and sets about the task of finding the phone that will implicate her brother. 

An Absolutely Ridiculous Plot

I’m actually shocked that someone pitched this story and another person thought “Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do it!”. Is this simply an example of folie à deux or are movie makers really that desperate for ideas? Whatever, this plot is farcical beyond belief.

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

It’s one thing to expect people to believe that paramedics wouldn’t do a cursory exam when finding someone passed out under a bridge. You know, to check on things like whether they are actually still alive or not. But to ask people to believe that someone can shoot a bunch of propofol into their arm. Pass out and wake up completely fine a few hours later. Is utterly ridiculous. 

Our protagonist injects this drug into her arm, not into a vein. So we are starting off pretty bad as it is. This is an intravenous drug, not a vaccine or hormone. She passes out and enters a coma like state for multiple hours.

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

You know what is really cool about Propofol and what makes it a fantastic drug for anesthesia? It wears off extremely quickly and is predictable. Chloe would have, likely, woken up 15 minutes later still staring at the underside of the bridge. That’s if her breathing wasn’t depressed to the point of death from taking too much. Things don’t get much better from there.

It Keeps Getting Worse

As the movie goes on, the plot becomes more and more ridiculous. A somewhat promising moment of creeping around the dark and eerie mortuary hints at a weak pulse. That hope almost instantly flat-lines, however, as the story is in such a rush to show its hand. There are a few brief, unsuccessful, resuscitation attempts but to no avail. The movie is left to die in a puddle of mediocre thriller tropes and purge fluid.

Everything here is so familiar and so predictable. The mortuary setting is completely wasted. Never used to actually create any scares or to effectively build tension. Our protagonist never feels particularly over-matched, either. Typically outsmarting our clumsy coroner with ease. The sense of threat is almost completely absent. A big reveal somewhere half way through the movie plays out like the first two minutes of chewing juicy fruit gum. Initially promising but almost instantly woefully disappointing. It’s all so silly and incredibly milquetoast.

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

As the movie begins to draw to a close. The plot becomes even more farcical and even more unbelievable. Taking a turn that is fairly positive for the action element of the movie. But incredibly negative for the believability of the story. As the final scenes play out you will be wondering how this story was ever commissioned. There are so many questions. So many things that are beyond unlikely. And so many things that make no sense at all.

A Completely Unlikable Cast

Play Dead’s cast is utterly obnoxious. We are supposed to sympathise with the situation of our protagonist Chloe (Bailee Madison) and her brother. Her father has offed himself, probably sick of living with his brat kids. His life insurance didn’t pay out and she really doesn’t want to get a job to pay for the house. Her little brother, T.J. (Anthony Turpel), is also suffering from a sticky mattress and doesn’t want to work so he hatches a plan. Let’s rob some poor bastard to get some mortgage money. 

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

What the fuck? How would it be possible to like these pair of prick holes? It is impossible to root for them. As the movie goes on, they just annoyed me more and more. Our coroner antagonist’s contradictory motivations provoke eye rolls. But it is hard not to cheer him on as Chloe and T.J. suck so incredibly hard. 

Some Controversial Tropes

On top of the unlikable cast. Play Dead contains some controversial old horror tropes that really should have died a long time ago. There are a number of people of colour in this movie. All of which are portrayed in a negative light. We have veterinary nurses selling drugs from the cabinet. Hispanic gang members, abusive ex-boyfriends turned armed robbers and worse. It’s pretty eye-rolling and short sighted.

Play Dead manages to have an African American character be the first to die not once, but twice. Quite an impressive feat of doubling down on tired horror tropes. But don’t worry, we get to root for our adderall popping, conspiracy nut, asshole kid and his annoyingly precocious sister. Great! As a white person, it’s kinda toe curling. I’m not one of these people wracked with “white guilt”. I am a horror fan, though, and well aware of its controversial history. I think casting needs more care and consideration. Horror needs to be called out for presenting stereotypes, even if people don’t like it.

Lacklustre Acting

Bailee Madison, as Chloe, felt completely out of place here. I feel like Olivia deJonge, or someone similar, would have been a way better option here. Madison is pretty good at crying on cue. Outside of that she brings almost nothing to this role. Her range of facial expressions is lacking. Her line delivery is poor and she really lacks in charisma.

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

She defaults to certain facial expressions repeatably and feels disconnected from what is happening. Her reaction to her ex-boyfriend being shot and her brother potentially being in line for a long stretch is hilarious. Its like she has been told the toilet is blocked and she needs to get her gloves on. Minor inconvenience, nothing more. I am sure she isn’t a bad actor but this role doesn’t fit her at all.

Anthony Turpel is dishwater dull as T.J. Bringing absolutely nothing to the role. He stutters wildly in parts before speaking clear as day in others. As if he had rehearsed certain parts excessively and others not at all. Clearly his character is supposed to have a stutter but it seems to come and go pretty randomly. It’s pretty bad and, like Madison, he never seems to emphasise the gravity of the situation. Chris Lee, as Ross, is okay. Managing to, at least, offer up some emotion when called for. On the plus side, Chris Butler is great fun as Sheriff Duggan. Provoking a few laughs and generally doing a great job. I, also, enjoyed Jorge-Luis Pallo as Mannix. 

A Promising Antagonist

I was trying to place Jerry O’Connell’s face for the entire movie. He plays the coroner in Play Dead and is the only genuinely interesting character. It dawned on me, half way through, that he is the dude from the party boat in Piranha 3D. He’s been around for awhile and has, obviously, been in a lot of movies. But that is where I knew him from. I am surprised I remembered anything about that movie after the underwater Kelly Brook scene. 

Play Dead (2022) Horror Movie Review

Anyways, O’Connell does a great job here. Making for a genuinely interesting and sinister antagonist. Unfortunately, he is given very few lines and, as far as antagonists go, is a bit of a bumbling idiot. Something which massively robs the movie of tension. There was some serious potential here to build a decent movie around him. The focus, however, is placed on Chloe. Something which the movie suffers for greatly. The Coroner is a promising character that is completely wasted. O’Connell deserves praise for his performance, though.

Final Thoughts and Score

I have to make it clear before I summarise this movie. I, personally, know people that would probably enjoy this movie. They would watch it without over analysing the story. They wouldn’t be bothered by the annoying characters or the ridiculous plot. I doubt the lacklustre acting would be a problem for them. They would simply enjoy it as a middle of the road thriller with a few moments of tension. I always say, your mileage may vary. If you don’t demand much from a movie like this, Play Dead might be right up your street.

For me, however, there is way too much to look past. The plot is farcical, the acting is lacking, the script is terrible, the characters are unlikable, the scares are absent and the whole movie is just a bit dull. Play Dead doesn’t feel low budget. It does feel low effort, though. I really can’t recommend this movie, though I am sure some people will enjoy it. It did nothing for me other than provoke eye rolls. Unlike Chloe, I’m afraid this one was dead on arrival. It should have been left on the slab in the morgue. 

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