Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
“Would you like to play a game?” Saw may have made this line a memorable and chilling one but before John “Jigsaw” Kramer started putting people in nightmarish traps, horror movies have had a long history of taking ordinary and even childhood games and twisting them for our entertainment.
The fun part for us viewers of course is trying to figure out how we would survive in the same situations or, if you’re anything like me, wondering why some of these folks would bother to play in the first place. But no matter the reason, these movies usually mean you’re in for a crazy ride. Here are a few of my favourite ‘Games of Death’ Horror Movies:
#5 Would You Rather
A bit of a hidden gem, Would You Rather tells the story of a group of people invited to a dinner party where they will compete in a game for a sizeable cash prize. Taking a simple party game and turning it into a living nightmare that forces you to pick between the painful or the REALLY painful, this movie is elevated by the performances. And in a pattern that you’ll see repeats on this list, shows how far some people are willing to go for a quick payday and a chance to be the last one standing.
#4 Escape Room
While it’s nowhere as dark as some of the other movies here, Escape Room is a perfect fit for this list. While I’ve never done an escape room challenge (I’ve always wanted to though) I imagine none of them are as high concept or as unforgiving to losers as these are. Like Final Destination this is a movie that relies more heavily on its unique ways of dispatching its “players” than its character development, but considering the over the top plotline that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The first film was a bit better than the sequel and the kills are handicapped by its PG-13 rating (all horror movies are IMHO) but Escape Room isn’t a bad way to spend some time if you’re in the mood to play Sherlock as you try to guess the answers before the players do, without the added stress of imminent death of course.
Fifty strangers are forced to choose one person among them who deserves to live. Less a game and more a social experiment, Circle utilises sci-fi horror to explore the nature of humanity. How do you judge a person you know nothing about? Is it wrong to choose your own life over that of a stranger’s ? An unflinching look at what makes us human, Circle may be a tough sell for some genre fans as it walks that thin line between thriller and horror. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t and engaging and clever concept.
Plus of all the films on this list, this is one game there’s seemingly no real escape from other than being the last one standing.
#2 Ready of Not
When I was kid my favourite game to play was Hide and Seek. My friends and I would always up the stakes by waiting to play at night so we could run from house to house or hide in the shadows to make things that much creepier.
I thought we knew what scary was, but this movie took that concept and notched it up to a thousand! My favourite part of this crazy tale was unlike most “game of death” movies, this one doesn’t take itself seriously and just delivers a wild, blood-soaked time from beginning to end. Not to mention Samara Weaving is a friggin’ delight and these victims deserved everything they got and then some.
Honourable Mention – Truth or Dare (2017 TV movie)
While I think the 2018 Truth or Dare starring Lucy Hale is laughably bad, I’m a fan of the made for television version that I’m guessing most of you have never seen. At least that one had an engaging story with likeable characters and memorable kills. Sadly, the lacklustre ending takes a lot away from the movie. But still, I would revisit this over the 2018 CGI monstrosity any day of the week.
#1 Cube (1997)
Often replicated but never duplicated, 1997’s Cube may just be the movie that started it all.
Six complete strangers areinvoluntarily placed in an endless maze filled with deadly traps. How many movies on this list took their inspiration from this film and still do! Hell, Netflix’s super hit Squid Game might not even exist if it wasn’t for Cube.
This Canadian indie flick is another great example that proves you don’t need an endless budget to make a fantastic story. And it’s the type of movie that has had endless interpretations as to what it’s trying to say.
While it has been remade (and has a few sequels too), it’s the original that still stands on top as the best games of death horror movie thus far.
So that’s my list. Any I missed out? And you can check out more games of death content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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