In board games – and in life – there are winners and losers. There is always someone more competitive; someone more strategic; or simply someone who just know how to play the game better. Board games can truly bring out the worst in us – fall outs, flipping game boards, etc – as we battle against our nearest and dearest to secure those all important bragging rights that come with a win.
As the title of this movie suggests, Murder Bury Win, plays on this analogy between life and board games as it focuses on the attempts of three best friends to get their new murder mystery board game funded and on the market. Writer / director plays with horror tropes, injecting a bit of screwball comedy along the way, to deliver a film that is every bit as fun and frenzied as a spirited game of Monopoly.
The horror comedy centres around Adam (Erich Lane), Barrett (Henry Alexander Kelly) and Chris (Mikelen Walker), three friends who are trying to crowdfund their new board game – also called Murder Bury Win – and have it hit the shelves. The game needs a little finessing and their online efforts to raise money never seem to get off the ground. Until, one day, a mysterious phone call from board game legend, V.V. Stubbs (Craig Cackowski), promises to change their lives forever …
What makes this film so engaging is the way it really toys with genre tropes, only to misdirect you. There are so many classic horror elements – the policeman who asks too many questions; the sinister, scheming villain; the cabin at the arse-end of nowhere – and yet they are all used in ways you wouldn’t expect. There are also elements of buddy comedy, screwball comedy and physical comedy that almost have no business being here but really work and are genuinely funny.
The rich, warm chemistry between the three leads is also utterly believable. The three genuinely seem like good friends who put up with each other’s foibles and quirks as they attempt to pursue their common goal. Chris works for a board game story and is knowledgeable and passionate about his product. Barrett is extremely mild-mannered and avoids confrontation at all costs. Adam is your classic bullshitter with more than a hint of crazy in his eyes.
Playing perfectly off the three leads is Craig Cackowski’s rubber-faced performance as board game magnate V.V. Stubbs. He makes all kinds of peculiar facial expressions and the tight close ups show him – and his expert gurning – in all its glory. Brian Slaten offers an equally comedic turn as Officer Dan, the local policeman who is a huge fan of Stubbs’ board games. The scenes between Dan and Chris are both really tense and utterly ridiculous in equal measure.
The horror elements are – on the whole – tinged with comedy. If you’re expecting a straight up jump-scare horror, this probably isn’t the movie for you. Watching Barrett trace a smiley face on the cheese grater before he scrubs the fingerprints off a corpse was really funny. The physical comedy – it turns out, it is really hard to dispose of a body – is also entertaining as the trio attempt to use their gaming creation to get away with murder. A particular highlight was also watching the friends realise what their internet search history looks like before deciding whether or not to hand themselves in to the police.
The ‘live action’ board game sequences that appear throughout are really good fun, too. The soundtrack often employs the tick-tick-tick of a gaming timer to amp up the tension. The film opens in a way that makes you think the three friends are out to kill a man in an alleyway. The ‘freeze’ effect – when it is someone else’s turn to roll the dice – is cleverly done and it’s really amusing to see that Barrett consistently draws the worst weapons (nail clippers and an ear of corn being the most visually amusing).
At times, the pacing can dip a little, especially when conversations meander on for longer than they should. But, once things get back on track, it’s like a whirlwind of action, reaction and distraction. It’s loud, chaotic and over the top. Towards its closing moments, the film puts comedy aside and takes a fairly dark turn – one that will really blindside you because, this time, there is no punchline; no light relief. It’s really well executed, if you’ll pardon the pun, as it keeps you thoroughly engaged in what’s happening.
The way the film combines elements of horror, thriller and comedy really is effortless. At the heart of it all, the central performances are really what bring Murder Bury Win to life. They are so believable and entertaining – with each of the three leads really selling it without ever coming across as cheesy or forced.
A completely unexpected delight – it will be great to see what writer-director Michael Lovan comes up with next.