Elevator Game Breaks Down as it Descends to a Ruinous Final Destination
Becki (Megan Best), little sister of Ryan (Gino Anania), has gone missing. She was last seen playing the “elevator game,” a creepy urban legend that — if done correctly — is supposed to transport a person to a parallel dimension guarded by a malevolent spirit. Her brother, a recent high school graduate, infiltrates a close-knit group of friends who run a popular online video series in which they play spooky games and debunk crazy supernatural folktales. He believes they can help him find out what happened to her.
Ryan convinces them to take a crack at the elevator game, including their de facto leader, the pompous and self-possessed Kris (Alec Carlos). But he never imagined what sort of merciless demon would be unleashed if the group broke the game’s rules or failed to play it to its conclusion. Now Ryan, Kris, researcher Chloe (Verity Marks), producer Izzy (Madison MacIsaac), cameraman Matty (Nazariy Demkowicz), and financier Kevin (Liam Stewart-Kanigan) are all in danger the same way Becki was when she played the game, and the opponent they’re up against won’t stop competing, even after they’ve stepped off of the elevator.
I had high hopes for Elevator Game. I really dug director Rebekah McKendry‘s freewheeling and loopy Lovecraftian, gross-out comedic horror yarn Glorious, and felt that her segment “Trick” from 2015’s Tales of Halloween was one of the anthology’s highlights. While I wasn’t familiar with the viral urban legend the plot was built around, I did think it had enough beguilingly sinister undertones to get me intrigued as to what the filmmakers were going to make out of it.
As talented as McKendry is, the screenplay — written by her husband (and frequent collaborator) David Ian McKendry and relative newcomer Travis Seppala — leaves a great deal to be desired. But as rudimentary and strangely uninspired as the pair’s scenario ends up, the director does still manage to get a great deal of mileage out of it all the same. The prologue is suitably chilling, while the central set piece involving Kris, Chloe, and Kevin filming themselves as they attempt to play the game is malevolently playful in all the right ways.
But things get progressively less interesting. With ticking-clock precision, the cast begins to get whittled down one after the other, pretty much in the exact order I’d anticipated. While the entity responsible for the carnage is bewitching, there’s honestly not much in the way of rhyme or reason in how it’s going to attack and what the full extent of its powers are. Sometimes it can appear to be omnipotent. At others, running away in the opposite direction is all that’s required to make it to the next scene alive.
Honestly, even if none of this feels especially original or innovative, it’s still enough to moderately entertain. Once Anania and Marks team up to put an end to the madness, I was mostly willing to go along for the ride. The characters have a spunky chemistry that’s appealing, and as slight as everything was, I liked both of their characters just enough that I did become invested in seeing whether they were going to make it out of this paranormal activity alive.
I was also taken with McKendry’s visual compositions, not the least of which is the ethereal “red floor” one of the characters ends up visiting when they play the game to its conclusion by correctly following the rules. It’s spooky stuff, overflowing in eerie idiosyncrasies and sinister possibilities I wish the film had spent more time exploring. Still, it’s good stuff, and throughout this sequence, the director is undeniably at her best.
Pity it doesn’t matter. The final moments of Elevator Game are a disaster. Not only are they rushed, but they also feel like a colossal cheat. It’s shock for the sake of shock. It’s unearned misdirection. It’s a stupefying turn of events that inadvertently transforms the thriller into a mystifying bad joke played on an unexpecting audience. This ending made me so angry, I wanted to throw something at the screen, and considering how inoffensively harmless the majority of this horror outing is, I can’t say I saw that coming. What a waste of time.
Film Rating: 1½ (out of 4)