Do you want to play a game? No, sorry, it’s not another Saw sequel or reboot. It’s Dead Body, horror’s version of recent dark comedy, Game Night. An under-the-radar indie slasher, Dead Body, doubles down on a classic slasher device – the ‘whodunnit’. Golden era 80’s slashers often weaved in Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ along with the gore and nudity. With a first-time director, novice cast, and small budget, does Dead Body offer something to compensate for what looks like a pretty derivative story?
Nine high school friends gather at a remote cabin for one last big party before college. As the party fizzles, someone suggests a good old-fashioned parlour game – Dead Body. But one of the graduates takes the game too seriously and dead bodies start to turn up. With nowhere to go and a killer among them, the paranoid survivors slowly turn on each other.
Dead Body Lacks Originality, But It Knows It
Just about everything under the sun has been done with the slasher formula. At this point, contemporary slasher movies are largely basking in nostalgia. Not surprisingly then, writers Ian Bell and Ramon Isao offer no real twists. They even set their movie in a cabin … in the woods. Dead Body takes a page from ‘golden era’ slashers, like Happy Birthday to Me, and more prominently centres the Agatha Christie ‘whodunnit’ model. Older horror fans may seem threads of cable television staple, TAG: The Assassination Game, as well.
They even set their movie in a cabin … in the woods.
And like most classic slashers, Dead Body’s twist feels random, requiring a suspension of disbelief. Not that it matters. If you’re watching this movie, you’re not expecting complex character arcs or deep storytelling. To their credit, Bell and Isao get it and play the twist for laughs, which mostly land. But a killer delivering an expository-laden monologue, accompanied with flashbacks, should be a movie ‘no no’ by now.
Dead Body Does Enough of the Slasher Basics Right
No, Dead Body isn’t original. Yes, it’s clearly a low-budget effort. In spite of its limitations, first-time director Bobbin Ramsey largely does the slasher formula justice. There’s a few jumps here and there, a bit of atmosphere, and decent kills with convincing practical gore effects. While nothing in the movie innovates or shocks, Ramsey manages some serviceable, brutal kills.
…Dead Body also widely avoids doing that wold exceeds its cast and resources.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Dead Body is that its low budget never betrays it. Ramsey does a better than expected job at concealing the budget, showing only as much as is necessary when it’s necessary. To some extent, the indie slasher also wisely avoids doing anything that would exceeds it cast and resources, That is, Ramsey keeps things simple and moves things along expediently enough.
Amateur Cast Takes a High School ‘Victory Lap’
No matter how many horror movies you watch, none of the cast will be family. It’s strictly first-timers and amateur actors in this indie slasher. Despite the lack of experience, none of the performances sink to cringeworthy levels. Of course, Dead Body doesn’t boast award-winning acting. Expect some occasional wooden delivery. Still there’s nothing here horror fans haven’t seen in other indie horror outings – no better, no worse. And the acting never distracts from the movie. In fact, audiences are more likely to be distracted by the actors’ ages. Absolutely no one in this movie looks like they just graduated from high school.
Dead Body a Surprisingly Watchable Slasher Redux
Maybe it was low expectations, but Dead Body proved to be surprisingly watchable. Though it lacks the brutality of, say, Terrifier, or the sardonic wit of Final Girls or You Might Be The Killer, Dead Body works more often than not. It’s never more than serviceable, but sometimes, that’s enough. However, horror should put a moratorium on isolated cabin settings for a year or so.