Elevator Game a Viral-Inspired Thriller That Can’t Get Off the First Floor

Following up on one of 2022’s better horror movies, Glorious, director Rebekah McKendry (All The Creatures Were Stirring) is back with Elevator Game. Like Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, this one’s riffing on another Internet trend. Apparently, it’s a game originating in Japan and South Korea that takes you to another dimension if you push elevator buttons in a certain order. Since this is a horror movie, assume no one follows those rules. Moreover, Elevator Game joins several other recent horror movies taking aim at social media culture. So far critics aren’t onboard with this viral trend horror.


When their sponsors threaten to pull out, a team of YouTube paranormal debunkers need a fresh – and fast – new story to tackle. They’re left with the ‘Elevator Game’ – a ritual that promises to open the door to a supernatural dimension. Though 20 minutes of footage in a cramped elevator seems dull, they’re left with no other options. But rules get broken during the ritual. Soon thereafter the team discovers a vengeful spirit stalks them with bad intentions on its mind.

Elevator Game Shows Early Promise Before Getting Stuck Between Floors

Things start off quite well for Elevator Game. On the surface, a premise set within such a tight space seems limiting. Director Rebekah McKendry pulled it off with Glorious. And the 2010 supernatural thriller Devil mostly made an elevator a scary, tense, place. The opening prologue delivers genuine tension and a decent shock. Even the tight confines don’t feel limiting with an Internet ritual that teases an interesting mythology. Given that McKendry knows her away around a horror movie, it’s not surprising that Elevator Game delivers a handful more shocks. In addition, McKendry surprises with some bloody, gruesome deaths. Not even a modest budget prevents this one from turning in a couple of creative, bloody deaths.

The opening prologue delivers genuine tension and a decent shock.

Unfortunately, McKendry can’t manage more than a few bumps in the night after that opening scene. What mostly follows is pretty generic fare. If you’ve seen any number of scary movies, Elevator Game often feels like a ‘paint-by-numbers’ effort. In spite of a promising mythology, the backstory for ‘The Fifth Floor Girl’ could have been ripped from any old school slasher. In fact, ‘The Fifth Floor Girl’ rarely feels scary perhaps owing in part to the overly contorted mannerisms reminiscent of early 2000s J-horror. Herein lies the problem with the latest Shudder release. Much of the movie feels too familiar.

Elevator Game Has Nothing To Say About the Internet Culture Driving Its Story

Though McKendry keeps things moving along at a good pace, writers David Ian McKendry and Travis Seppala don’t do much with either ‘dangerous viral trend’ premise or the paranormal debunking YouTubers. That is, Elevator Game doesn’t seem to have much, if anything, to say about viral social media culture. It’s more or less present as a means to an end – a way to create a story for the movie to exist. Perhaps the lack of mythology stems from the shallowness of actual Internet game itself. But it feels like there were potentially good ideas left unused in the movie. Moreover, Elevator Game is often tonally inconsistent, alternating deadly serious and a bit too jokey.

Elevator Game doesn’t seem to have much, if anything, to say about viral social media culture.

On the other hand, it’s a relief that McKendry et al. resist the urge to dunk on social media personalities. Plenty of horror movies over the last few years have skewered influencer culture with varying degrees of effectiveness in terms of their commentary. Of course, it doesn’t negate the fact that we also already have several horror movies that have used ghost hunters as a starting point for supernatural scares. Yet it helps that the characters are largely likable even if they’re underwritten. That likability goes a long when some of performances are mixed in quality.

Elevator Game Gets Stuck on the First Floor

After a promising start, Elevator Game quickly gets stuck between floors. Whether it’s the tonal inconsistencies, underwritten characters and mixed performances, or derivative haunting bits, McKendry takes a step back from last year’s fun, Glorious. There’s a handful of well-served gruesome moments and the characters are likable – McKendry resists a recent urge in horror to heap scorn on social media personalities. But she also doesn’t have anything to say about viral trends. Ultimately, Elevator Game is a watchable thriller with some moments here and there. Nonetheless, it won’t register long after you’ve finished it.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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