Gatlopp (2022): Time to Play a Game
First Non-Festival Release: June 23, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Alberto Belli
Writer: Jim Mahoney
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Starring: Emmy Raver-Lampman, Jim Mahoney, Jon Bass, Sarunas J. Jackson
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Wanting to support their long-time friend Paul (Jim Mahoney) after a breakup, Cliff (Jon Bass), Dominic (Sarunas J. Jackson), and Sam (Emmy Raver-Lampman) decide to spend the night drinking in an effort to recreate the magic of their youth. Amongst the reminiscing, the group decide to enjoy a rousing game of Gatlopp, a mysterious game that Cliff found in a piece of furniture he bought from a pawn shop. What starts as a cheeky card game morphs into something deadly, as the prompts get more personal and the consequences for not complying increase.
Gatlopp is a heartfelt horror comedy that packs a punch with its wacky premise and signature style of humor.
A brisk horror comedy featuring a contained setting and cast, Gatlopp inspires with its plucky indie roots. Operating in the niche that is game horror, the writers strategically answer any preemptive questions audiences would have regarding the crew’s game night from hell. There are plenty of comedic bits that add to the ludicrousness of the scenario, and a few that miss their mark, whether through length or repetition. Slick writing allows for the sinister true nature of the game to build as the difficult increases as the players get close to winning. Once it reaches a certain threshold, its power is evident. Surprisingly, the antics of the game are short-lived. Thanks to the brisk runtime, the audience is only given a taste of the game’s true energy, which may be off-putting for those interested in the range of absurdity that could ensue.
Employing a more playful tone, the setup maximizes the film’s ability to dissect how friendships fracture into adulthood. As the crew navigates the realities of the game, they also must contend with their reluctance to address past issues that have haunted them well before that fateful night. Each participant learns to accept their shortcomings and atone for their sins. While this is quite common in horror, it is nice to see that each player is responsible for earning the forgiveness of those around them rather than the supernatural force behind it all.
While it may not impress in terms of scale, Gatlopp holds steady through its strong central cast's performances. Sometimes in horror films, it is difficult to see why such an oddball group of people are friends and what they possible have in common. Thankfully, the chemistry between the core group of friends in Gatlopp elevates the material to feel genuine stakes in the dissection of their relationships.
Truthfully, there is very little to critique Gatlopp on in terms of execution. Given the low production values, it is expected that it has more obstacles to jump over in order to succeed. Its rapid-fire pacing works well with the humor, but by the end it feels like Gatlopp leaves too much on the table where it could have explored its concept more. While reasonably developed, the journey the characters goes on is neatly wrapped up with only a few obstacles in the way. This is one of those critiques, however, that could be well-intentioned but misinformed. Sometimes less is more and a short, sweet story might fare better than one drawn out needlessly.
While it isn’t the most serious horror contender of the year, Gatlopp has plenty of heart to connect with audiences. Capitalizing on the compelling dynamics of hastily resurrected friendships while performing an autopsy on the reasons it disintegrated over time, Gatlopp manages to be more than an evil board game movie. Propelled by a strong cast and hilarious bits, this indie venture balances the tone necessary to keep its horror fresh and fun the entire way through gameplay. If you are looking for something easily digestible, roll the dice on this low budget gem and unearth the great value behind Gatlopp.
Overall Score? 7/10