Best Modern Horror Movies About Games, From Spiral to The Hunt - VRGyani News and Media

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Monday, August 9, 2021

Best Modern Horror Movies About Games, From Spiral to The Hunt

With the popularity of escape rooms and immersive haunted experiences, the “survival games” horror sub-genre has been growing. Many of these films borrow heavily from preceding, influential films centered on sadistic games, including The Game, Cube, Battle Royale, and Saw. The new wave of survival game films largely focuses on a seemingly innocent game, building to bloody life or death stakes, often melding fiction and reality. These deadly games range from manhunts for sport to supernatural board games to escape rooms and haunted experiences that become all too real. Survival game films of the past decade have increasingly offered more commentary on society’s growing self-involved mentality, the bloodthirsty nature of man, and the ugliness and corruption in the world.

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Critiques of the social media age and how it encourages a thirst for fame and attention are a key exploration in recent survival game films. No Escape, originally titled “Follow Me,” begins as a satirical, genuinely funny outlook on the addiction to followers and what one would do to stay relevant. The film follows Cole (Keegan Allen), a social media star who is known for putting out edgy content on his vlog. When he’s offered a large sum of money to travel to Moscow to play an incredibly realistic escape room that tests your limits, he accepts, sure it will please his viewers. Cole and his friends arrive at the desolate escape room. At first, they barely blink an eye at the gory tasks and entrapping puzzles before them, believing the realism is merely the work of top-notch special effects. As things escalate, this group of friends finds themselves in a grisly fight for their lives trapped inside a macabre maze. The unsavory captors who led them here seem to have no intention of letting them survive. No Escape’s tone becomes far more gory, intense, and grim in the second act offering unrelenting tension, kills, and scares. The film ends strong with a trippy, eye-opening twist that exposes what anyone can be capable of if pushed, and how not all antics, even for the sake of followers, are worth it.

Nerve, a high-adrenaline thriller about an app that pays and ranks you based on increasingly risky dares, escalating to the game imprisoning or killing you, taps into similar critiques of addiction to likes and validation. Similarly, the Shudder original, Shook, follows a self-involved, social media star who is targeted and forced to play a sick game that demands she carry blood on her hands. The mysterious caller films these antics and streams it, exposing the lead as someone very different from who she pretends to be to her followers. While the film becomes a bit over-the-top, it still offers relevant critiques and offers a suspenseful tug of war between this all being an elaborate prank or a very real lesson in morality.

Fear, Inc. is a phenomenal surreal survival games horror film, yanking you back from one reality to another, keeping you guessing through the final reveal. The film follows Joe (Lucas Neff), a horror junkie fed up with the predictable scares haunted houses offer, hungering for something a bit more extreme. He seems to have found it in Fear, Inc., a company that delivers custom-made, intense scare experiences. What starts off as a horror fanboy’s dream takes a sadistic, unrelenting turn. While it takes some time for Joe to allow the possibility that this isn’t just a game to scare him, he eventually is forced to question if this might simply be an excuse for sadists to torture and hunt volunteers. Fear, Inc. is a fun-filled, meta-slasher-homage-meets-intense-survival-games horror film that explores society’s desensitization to violence and the psychology behind both those who crave intense scares and those wishing to inflict pain and psychological torment on others.

Final Girl explores darkness in humanity, the thrill of the hunt, and the psychology of fear. Veronica (Abigail Breslin) is approached by a group of sadistic teen boys who like to play a sick game where they hunt their female prey, giving them a chance to flee before they go in for the kill. Unknowingly, they have picked a young woman who has been trained to be a weapon to be used against men like them since she was a child. For the first time, they have picked a victim who will turn the tables on them and give them a taste of what it’s like to be hunted. Final Girl has an infectious, ferocious spirit, showcasing that women are not something to be cornered, hunted, or underestimated. Additionally, it bridges into an interesting examination of all-consuming fears and psychological scars, merging into a prison of one's own mind and darkness within.

The Into the Dark film Uncanny Annie works off of a similarly surreal, nightmarish vision where a group of friends find themselves trapped in a supernatural board game that forces them to confront their fears and expose shameful secrets. The mysterious game, titled Uncanny Annie, proves to be an unforgiving one with deadly consequences, brutally killing the losers and holding dominion over their souls. Uncanny Annie is Jumanji with a far darker soul, breaking the safety net of an innocent game and digging into personal demons, crippling lies, and the fear of your mistakes defining you. It exposes the flawed nature of man and how one's fears and past will always come out, unable to be contained.

Among the survival games sub-genre, there has also been a surge of commentary on race relations, politics, and social issues as these films peel back the motive of these cruel games and who is being targeted. Circle is one film that opens up the conversation on these topics among a terrifying execution game. While in production design and in content Circle takes clear inspiration from Cube, it centers on an even more horrifying and bleak game. 50 strangers from different walks of life find themselves in a mysterious chamber that is triggered to execute one of them every 2 minutes. While they can’t otherwise move, they soon realize the trigger to kill is determined by hand movements that cast their vote, allowing them to choose who dies next. Could the last man standing survive this macabre game? This forces the strangers to not only question who is the most deserving to live but who they have the best chance of winning against.

Circle gives us a tension-filled, constantly evolving story. The film uses its one location setting powerfully, allowing the terrifying situation, building suspense, stellar writing, and compelling performances to power the film. Circle presents important conversations on different perspectives of social issues, without harping on them or making it the full identity of the horrifying scenario. It eventually returns to a simpler yet more haunting focus that the fear of mortality and death can turn you into someone unrecognizable.

The Hunt is an even more direct example of the politically focused survival game film, satirizing the extremism and harmful divides between class and political parties in the United States. The film features stereotypes in how one side sees the other, taking away some of the realism and impact, but it starts the conversation on the harm of false perceptions. The Hunt creates an always-twisting manhunt with ample mystery in trying to uncover the truth and motive of this vile game.

One of the strongest recent examples of socially conscious survival games horror is Spiral: From the Book of Saw. While it stays true to the philosophy of Jigsaw, it manages to create an identity, perspective, and style of its own. Spiral addresses the evils of police corruption and how dangerous that untouchable power is to many. The film offers a twisted form of both vengeance and a chance for redemption to those who don’t seem to learn any other way. Throughout the film we follow a jaded but honest cop, Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), who is determined to get to the bottom of the new Jigsaw Killer who’s targeting his colleagues and friends. The film ends on a dark and enticing twist, cornering Zeke into cleaning up the damaged system in a more extreme way.

Zeke serves as the example that not all cops are bad, saving it from being an all-out anti-cop movie. He speaks out against his peers even at the risk of being the precinct’s “snitch”. Still, those who take advantage of their power far outnumber the cops like Zeke who don’t. It’s this broken system that turns a blind eye and allows this corruption that our new Jigsaw is determined to purge. Spiral is a tantalizing survival games horror film that exposes the corruption in our society through a tension-filled, stylistic murder mystery.

Survival game horror films offer an entrapping, nightmarish reality with the looming fear of death. Yet they also offer a shrivel of hope that if you can beat the game, you can return to the world outside of this hellish labyrinth. Even among ghastly circumstances, the threat of death and the hope of survival offers an interesting exploration of both the strength and downfall of man. In this, they offer an inspiring metaphor of life even among such terrifying odds. Hope is never truly lost if you fight and keep playing the game. Beating the game can mean addressing one's personal demons, or it can mean standing up against injustice in the world and grabbing hold of one's right to break away from the control of the game master. Alternatively, these films can offer a warning of what fear can turn you into. Some survive, but lose themselves along the way.

There are many commonalities among the originators of the genre and the most recent wave of survival horror, particularly tackling themes of the self-interested nature of man, pain as a twisted spectacle, and the elusive nature of reality when darker forces are at play. Recent survival game films, like many forms of storytelling, are a product of the world and times they are born from. Building off the core concept and themes, many films of the sub-genre have become conversation pieces, exposing the ugliness in man, flaws in what society values, and the importance of bringing light to the horrors and injustices in our current world.

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