Let’s eliminate it early: gatlopp is a terrible title for a horror movie. It’s probably meant to be an intriguing tease that has viewers wondering if “GATLOPP” (sometimes in all caps) is an acronym, specific reference, or onomatopoeia for a particularly gruesome and messy act of violence. “Shivering, Lance turned away rather than watching the gelatinous alien monster ingest the other half of his fallen comrade with a damp, resonant liquid. gat lopp. ”) Instead, it sounds dumb and tone-deaf at the same time, like a neologism someone invented while drunk and keeps trying to impose on more sober friends.
But while the film is about as ridiculous as its title (in full, Gatlopp: one hell of a game), it lands much better. A micro-budgeted adult on the likes of board game magic stories Jumanji and Zathura, Gatlopp puts its core group of angsty young professionals through the wringer, effectively turning Truth or Dare into a high-stakes game of confessing deep secrets and potentially friendship-ending lies. It’s pretty clunky given the premise and structure, but a steady pace and engaged cast make for an entertaining indie horror film about a familiar gimmick.
The action is built around a drinking game that amiable bar promoter Cliff (Jon Bass) finds in a used credenza and coerces his reluctant friends. Famed TV producer Samantha (Emmy Raver-Lampman) and struggling aspiring actor Troy (Sarunas J. Jackson) have both reached times in their lives when they’re ready to move on from when they all were. devout best friends. But Cliff forces them to come together to support their old friend Paul (Jim Mahoney, also writer and executive producer), who is in the middle of a divorce and turns into a tearful mess after learning that his future ex has moved on with a wealthy rival, prosperous and apparently well endowed.
The opening scenes make it pretty clear that these four characters are well-known types: Paul is a tired Eeyore who’s devoted his life to his relationship and can’t believe it’s all falling apart. Troy is strained under the weight of his failure to break into acting, but uses a laid-back personality and ready smile to mask his disappointment and make all his setbacks seem temporary. Samantha, the biggest hit of the group, has made her work a reality in her life and personality, to the point of having strictly limited time for her old friends.
And Cliff, the shaggy-haired stoner who’s clearly thrilled to have built a life where he can still drink booze like he’s in college, is the guardian of their friendships, the guy with a wall of Party Polaroids to remind them of all the time they got lost together, had weird haircuts, or made bad decisions. When the others want to just share a beer, then give Paul a hug and a “Sorry, man” on the way out, Cliff is the one to guilt them into devoting an evening to reliving their shared celebratory days by drinking. game he just found. “Gatlopp”, he says, is Swedish for “the glove”. But even as he talks about the game to his reluctant friends, he has no idea what gauntlet he’s about to put them through.
Running at an efficient and energetic pace for 80 minutes, gatlopp doesn’t have much time to waste on the characters’ disbelief when their drinking game begins asking them for personal information, moving pieces around the board on their own, and imposing supernatural punishments when they dodge questions. By the time they find out that if they don’t complete the game they’ll have to play it for eternity in hell, they’ve already been given plenty of other reasons to play fair and follow through, even if it means revealing the secrets ‘they hid from themselves and from each other.
Mahoney’s screenplay puts just the right amount of reality into those secrets and the reasons why this foursome would keep them buried. It would be next to impossible to make a horror movie about an enchanted board game without a heavy layer of camp comedy and self-awareness, and gatlopp obliges in this respect, with a no-nonsense attitude to all the confrontations and twists the game calls for. An animated opening credits sequence, with CG parts sailing through the air to a musical theme that evokes beetle juice-era Danny Elfman, strikes a peppy tone that clearly says “Don’t take any of this too seriously.”
But there’s also a genuine sadness for these characters, as they confront how their individual adult lives betrayed the simple friendship of their youth and how they let each other and themselves down. same. There’s a solid structure at work here, as first-time feature director Alberto Belli uses the lighting and production design to set flashbacks to the characters’ collective pasts in contrast to their current lives. It feels like a budget decision as much as a thematic that puts both eras in the same house, the family home that Cliff inherited. But while that decision might seem limiting, it also works in the film’s favor, to show both how much of a difference seven years have made for everyone in this story, and how far they’ve come from where they expected to be. .
And while the reveals are often broad and bland, the cast does an admirable job of selling them. A belated revelation of a dark secret Samantha was sitting on is so abrupt and angsty that it could easily veer into the territory of Phoebe Cates’ infamous “How Daddy Died on Christmas” speech from the original. Gremlins. But Raver-Lampman drops the camp aspects and puts herself so fully in the moment that she gives the audience a reason to care about the outcome of a relationship they had no idea about five minutes earlier.
This moment does not shoot gatlopp far from its general air of pleasantly playful time wasting, the kind of diversion aimed at cult horror fans looking for something they haven’t seen on screen a thousand times already. It’s the kind of movie that feels tailor-made for Fantastic Fest audiences, at a midnight drive-in screening or in the late hours of a Halloween party, where everyone is simultaneously excited and exhausted. . Despite its threats of eternal, high-stakes torment, it’s a film with such a low buy-in that its cheap looks are charming, and its relatively tight and efficient crafting looks admirable. If horror fans can look past this clunky title, they’ll find more enjoyment in gatlopp as the description “adult version on the original Jumanjiinitially seems to promise.
gatlopp debuts for on-demand and digital rental or purchase on June 16.