VCI Home Video // 1976 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 19th, 2004
The object of this game is staying alive! Staying alive!
Death Game is a cautionary tale about the dangers of engaging in a hot-tub ménage á trois with two strange girls who show up on your doorstep.
George Manning (Seymour Cassel, The Royal Tenenbaums) lives a nice, normal life, with a pretty wife, a big house, and all the latest hit records. All of that is about to change.
After he bids farewell to his wife, who is off on a trip, George finds himself left to his own devices. Instead of doing some work on the garage or checking out the latest tool sale at Sears, George engages in hot, wet sex with a couple of strangers.
The girls, Jackson (Sandra Locke, Ratboy, another cautionary tale) and Donna (Colleen Camp, Police Academy 2) just appear on George's doorstep one rainy night. Some food and drinks lead to some playful conversation, which leads to some playful flirting, which leads to some playful bare-ass nudity in the Jacuzzi, which culminates in a indiscernible, writhing mass of bubbles and thighs and facial hair.
Thinking it was just a one-night stand, George is eager to shuffle the girls out of the house. But he might be getting more than he bargained for. The girls start acting nutty, and George finds himself more and more anxious -- he needs to jettison these two.
Despite some threats from Jackson that she would go to the police charging statutory rape, the two eventually pack up and leave, leaving George to stew in his guilt. But it ain't over yet. The girls come back with a vengeance, kidnapping George and proceeding to physically and mentally abuse him, with the specter of murder looming ever-large.
George is now forced to answer the age-old question: is a threesome with two blondes worth torture and death?
This movie is absolutely insane. From the disturbing opening credits -- a montage of child drawings with the absolute worst movie theme song I have ever heard -- to the ludicrously cheesy threesome scene, to the last third, featuring surreal sequence after surreal sequence, Death Game plays like a direct feed from the brain of a psychiatric ward escapee.
The weirdness doesn't fully kick in until the girls show up, and the Jacuzzi-boinking unfolds. The sex scene is long and hard to watch. Not hard to watch as in "witnessing baby seals getting clubbed" hard, but hard to watch as "in the sequence is so poorly shot and edited you'll have no idea what the F is going on" hard. Rapid fades of close-ups, indiscernible body parts, and frothing water add up to the most confusing, un-erotic love scene ever caught on film. Combine that with the dumbest '70s synthesizer beat ever composed, and the whole affair is not so much titillating as it is opaque and laughable.
Second that opaqueness and laughability with the ensuing torture. George is tied up, the girls slap on some weird makeup, and proceed to scream at him and dump sludge on his head, and jump on his bed. Intermittently, they make out and kill possible witnesses. All with that Godforsaken theme song playing over and over and over again. All this unpleasantness is ultimately wrapped up with a moronic ending.
However stupid this film it is, is made 1,000 times worse by its DVD translation. Death Game is hands-down the worst-looking film I have ever seen on DVD. The picture works off a color palette of, like, five washed-out pastels, is foggier than the coast of Norway, and stops and hiccups in some spots. Sure it's old -- but I've seen movies from the early Seventies, and none are as horrendous as this. The mono sound is balls, shrill and shallow, and stifling to the dialogue, but way too generous to the retch-inducing crap that parades as the soundtrack.
A few previews make up the extras.
There is only one recipient of true torture in this movie, and it is you.
Guilty on all counts, including some it wasn't even charged with, Death Game is suitable only for placing your Diet Pepsi on.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #47
Studio: VCI Home Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated R