A bloody, tense, and darkly hilarious horror thriller that will delight anyone looking for an off kilter and tense horror comedy.
The premise is a little tough to swallow. A wealthy family made their fortunes a hundred years ago by making a blood pact with the devil. Whenever a new person joins the family they have to play a game. The devil chooses the game, and when the devil chooses hide and seek the family has to hunt down the new member and murder them in order to ensure their family’s wealth and station.
It is a very high concept and convoluted setup, but the movie turns that into a strength satirizing the whole concept of deals with the devil. In fact it pokes fun at pretty much every element of the film. The characters make fun of the whole game. They make fun of wealth and how weird wealthy people are. The movie has a wonderful sense of humor. The deadpan delivery of all the characters makes every joke land that much harder and generates that much more laughter. The film also dapples in extremely dark and violent physical humor. From a gun that goes off at the wrong moment to a crossbow that seems to have a mind of its own to a butler that just can’t be stopped the film will make the most horrible and horrifying moments as funny as they are shocking.
The reason the comedy doesn’t engulf and upset the tonal balancing act the film is performing is because of the characters. This film develops and enriches every character with a deep and true internal life. The story is about Grace who marries Alex. She is the point of view character and the one around whom the entire plot revolves. She is anxious about her place in this family. She has an identity and conflicts and desires that feel genuine and real. She is flawed and makes mistakes, and overcomes her challenges. But she isn’t the only one. The parents are fantastically drawn as they have clearly agreed to this moral compromise and have built up walls of defenses around their immorality. Alex and his siblings all cope with their family, wealth and what they have to do to keep both in different ways. Each character feels true to themselves and the situation. This film loves its characters in a way that most films don’t and most horror films would never even dream of.
The biggest test of a horror film of course is the ability to use all elements of production to create an emotional effect and this film has some fantastic sequences that do just that. There is some excellent suspense filmmaking on display. A scene in the kitchen is particularly tense and well executed. A sequence in the stables is brutal, gory, and visceral in a way that is perfectly setup and paid off. It takes a great filmmaking team to alternate between a big laugh and a big scare, but this team does it expertly.
If you’re looking for a bloody, funny, and well made horror movie this is the movie for you. The character work is what will bring me back to this film every year. It has entered my stable of Halloween movies for sure. It’s definitely my cup of tea. – A