Friday, October 29, 2021

2021 Salem Horror Fest Review: WICKED GAMES

 by Michelle Swope

How much do you really know about a person you meet online and how much do they know about you?

This question is explored in detail in the brutal new film, Wicked Games, from filmmaker Teddy Grennan, who is also known for Ravage (2019). Written and directed by Grennan, the film stars Christine Spang (The Light of the Moon, Succession), Markus Silbiger (Odds Are, Hellfest), Michael Shenefelt (The Walking Dead), and Conner Ann Waterman (Chicago Fire). If you’re a fan of movies about twisted games gone wrong like Ready or Not or Saw, you’ll have a bloody good time with Wicked Games. Wicked Games is featured at this year’s Salem Horror Fest, which runs through October 31st.

Wicked Games begins with a man covered in blood, wearing what appears to be a tattered police uniform and with handcuffs hanging from one hand, stumbling into a police station and showing the person at the desk a video of a woman with a gun. This opening sequence is just a grisly taste of what’s to come as the turbulent thriller unfolds.
Christine Spang plays a woman named Harley, who recently met Kiel, played by Markus Silbiger, online and has begun a passionate relationship with him. When Kiel invites Harley to spend a long, romantic Halloween weekend with him at his family’s estate, she is hesitant at first, but finally agrees. When they arrive at Kiel’s massive family home, Harley is surprised to find that the house is basically empty. Kiel explains that his family stopped making regular trips to the mansion years earlier, so no one has been around to care for it. This is the first of several red flags and Harley seems to be taking note of everything.

Spang gives a superb performance as Harley, who quickly realizes the weekend isn’t going to go as planned when she is woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of gunshots and finds Kiel lying in a pool of blood in the living room. Masked intruders have broken into the house and are hunting Harley for sport. While trying to find a place to hide, Harley stumbles upon newspaper clippings about Kiel’s brothers, who killed themselves, and it soon becomes apparent that something even more sinister might be going on. It’s also obvious this isn’t the first time Harley has had to fight for her life. In fact, it’s revealed later in the film that Harley has a tragically gruesome past and Kiel, and the intruders, may have found out about it online.
Wicked Games becomes an intense game of cat and mouse between the intruders and Harley until she discovers the motivation behind the game, and then it becomes revenge. Harley begins savagely killing the masked attackers one by one and the intruders realize a little too late that this is much more than a game for Harley. This is basic survival for Harley and fighting back has become a way of life for her.
Wicked Games is a well-written, agonizingly fascinating study of the effects of severe trauma, and Spang is enthralling as Harley, a woman who has been victimized to such an extent that she is losing touch with reality. Silbiger and Shenefelt give arresting performances as depraved siblings who derive perverse pleasure from playing sick games and inflicting pain. Ultimately, their sadistic family get what they deserve, but it may have finally pushed Harley over the edge and taken her sanity. Wicked Games would make a great double feature with Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge (2017).

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