Gatlopp: Hell of a Game
Board games as a portal to Hell or a conduit for something bad to manifest in the world isn’t a new concept. What’s a ouija board but a board game? How many movies since The Exorcist have used the ouija board as the central focus of evil? The answer is “A lot.” Non-threatening board games are another thing altogether. What could be threatening about cards, dice, and plastic pieces you move around a board? The answer is “A lot.”
Cliff reunites his friends Sam, Dominic, and Paul after Paul’s wife files for divorce. After eight years of not seeing each other the friends have a lot to catch up on. What better way to catch up with friends than over drinks and a board game? Except the game has different plans for the friends.
Gatlopp sounds like a fun game. Roll the dice, flip a timer, pull a card to perform a task, and then a second card to reveal a punishment or a reward. Rewards can include taking a shot or drinking a beer. Punishments can include pushups, being permanently attached to the person next to you, being sent to Hell, or being condemned to play the game for eternity if one of them does not win before daybreak. And that is the drawback of playing Gatlopp.
The friends have a lot of buried secrets and regrets the board game stirs up. The only way to survive is to be honest with each other, but with every lie and mistruth they dig themselves deeper into a hole. Where other movies may use a death in the family to heal the divide between friends and family, Gatlopp uses the device of a board game to achieve the same result.
Gatlopp: Hell of a Game is a horror movie in the same vein as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or Zombieland. Only in the broadest definitions would we call either a horror movie. There’s zombies and people jumping into wood chippers in the latter movies and Paul is sent to Hell in Gatlopp, but they’re more comedy than anything else. Make no mistake, around the hard truths being dropped between friends Gatlopp is a laugh out loud funny movie.
Gatlopp wouldn’t work if it didn’t have two things going for it: 1) production value and 2) the cast. Low budget does not mean a movie has to be bad or even look amateurish. Director Alberto Belli and the entire crew have produced a movie that looks and feels like it had a much bigger budget than what they were probably actually working with. The production value, down to the design of board game, is top notch. Lesser movies with the same size budget may not have fared as well or had the same results.
The second thing that works in Gatlopp is the cast. Jon Bass (Baywatch) as Cliff, Sarunas J. Jackson (Insecure) as Dominic, Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy) as Sam, and Jim Mahoney as Paul make up the main cast. Were they friends before filming started, did they take time to get to know each other before filming started, or was it all just acting? No matter the answer all four actors click. The results are seen on screen as Gatlopp is an enjoyable horror-light comedy.