“Play or die”: Curses and crimes in Salem | First film of Eren Celeboglu and Ari Costa


PLAY OR DIE 5 points

All Fun and Games; US/UK/Canada, 2023

Direction: Eren Celeboglu and Ari Costa.

Screenplay: JJ Braider, Eren Celeboglu and Ari Costa.

Duration: 76 minutes.

Interpretes: Asa Butterfield, Natalia Dyer, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Laurel Marsden, Annabeth Gish.

Premiere in theaters.

Due to the budget, duration and ambition, if it had been made by a major studio in the 1930s or 1940s, Play or Die would have definitely fallen into the B-movie category. But the debut feature of Eren Celeboglu and Ari Costa was- release. in the 21st century. and that definition in its strictest etymology has never been used, although the nickname “independent horror film with a very loose budget” fits it perfectly. The previous description is small and has nothing to do with virtues or shortcomings: it is known that in some bills immortal works are created and, on the contrary, million-dollar mediocrities are not lack Perhaps the worst flaw of All Fun and Games, its original title in English, is the exact quality of its source, the tenth regurgitation of the most common areas that the slasher has practiced in fifty years. It all started with a curse, but unlike what happened in the Evil Dead saga, where a book attracted the most vicious demonic plagues, here the discovery of a century-old knife with strange inscriptions does not allow humor or nonsense.

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Strange crimes take place in Salem, a town with a violent history if any, and the script freely admits that witches not only exist, but they exist in industrial quantities. Or at least that’s what the protagonists can do, three brothers and a group of friends who, in an unforgettable night, realize that something has possessed one of them. And then another. It is the youngest brother who begins to do strange things, as if there is another person living inside him, an entity, and then it is the turn of the eldest (the British Asa Butterfield, the little boy man from The Invention of Hugo). It seems centuries ago, in the midst of a witch hunt, a child was the victim of the most brutal bullying, forced to participate in violent and bloody games. As a result, anyone who uses his knife now falls into the hands of a non-negotiable asset. This is how games like Hangman, hide-and-seek or other traditional childhood pastimes, become pure and simple evil. And also the meeting of a group of young people ends in massacre, with no masks to be seen but with the same strength as a Jason or a Freddy.

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It is the middle sister, played by Natalia Dyer (her face is immediately recognizable from her participation in Stranger Things) who will be in charge of trying to solve the mystery, restore normality and end the curse of once and for all. The 76-minute length is appreciated, even if the script seems to run out before the hour mark, gathering heartbreaks with relative imagination and the occasional jump start scare (the old surprise that sound trick, courtesy of the duo Val Lewton-Jacques Tourneur in the good old days of RKO), as well as a couple of sequences that seem stolen from a costume dream said Frodo to the ring. Play or die is a classic meta stick and in the bag. Or, in this case, put down a knife and go to the other side.

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