The Bunker Game (2021)
Directed By: Robert Zazzara
Starring: Gaia Weiss, Mark Ryder, Lorenzo Richelmy
Plot Summary: A group of people are living inside a bunker for a LARP, which stands for Live Action Role Play. The scenario is a group of Nazi’s is trying to survive a nuclear holocaust. However, the role play gets shut down when the power goes out. The leader of the LARP is also nowhere in sight. Now, a handful of people are left down in the bunker to find out what happened to their missing member. Things of course go totally sideways when mysterious entities are seemingly stalking the group. Paranoia and death quickly follow in this tense horror outing.
Robert Zazzara’s fictional feature film debut is certainly an ambitious one, attempting to turn the typical and wholly overdone haunted house premise on its head. In an interesting and bold choice, he uses LARPing or Live Action Role Playing as a backdrop for the plot. This is a novel and highly interesting choice that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a horror film. The Bunker Game is one of those scrappy, can-do productions that certainly makes the most of what I can only assume was a modest budget. The director has a background in cinematography, and while he didn’t actually serve as DP, it’s clear he knows how to put together a production that is visually strong.
Bunker most certainly has a clear sense of style and perfectly complements the bleak tone. With its bleak, seemingly never-ending corridors and labyrinth of rotted interiors, the setting becomes its own character and is seriously the best part of the film. The use of a combination of muted colors and colored filters to highlight tense moments is a simple yet refreshing technique that elevates the material whilst also giving things haunting atmosphere. There are also some impressive camera tricks to be had. For example, Zazzara showcases a model of the maze-like bunker, then pans down onto said model to then digitally transfer the characters to that locale. This is a very similar to a trick used in the hedge maze model in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece The Shining.
Sadly, this is where the positives come to a grinding halt. Despite a cool premise and a really strong first act that sets a very eerie tone, the movie rapidly falls apart. I am not kidding when I say this disjointed outing even makes the 2002’s “Ghost Ship” look Oscar worthy by comparison. After the bulk of the players exit the bunker, leaving only its core cast, the movie quickly goes from interesting to cliché heavy nonsense. In addition, the movie is saddled with clunky dialogue and wildly uneven performances from its cast. Character motivations are sketchy at best, and despite some attempt at development, most of are utterly forgettable. This alone might be forgivable, but the film lacks a compelling or, hell even a coherent narrative. The already paper-thin plot is almost baffling in how underwhelming it is. I try not to nit-pick plot holes, and I’m able to allow for some suspension of disbelief. But here it feels like there are big chunks of exposition missing. I watched this film twice and there are elements that still don’t make sense.
Much like the previous film I reviewed, The Seed, The Bunker Game is frustrating because on a technical level the direction is on point. Robert Zazzara clearly knows how to put together a film that has a level of maturity, especially for a first fictional feature. What sinks this movie like a stone however is a woefully underwritten screenplay that has a few interesting ideas but doesn’t come close to coming together. Outside of its incredible setting, this movie is frankly not memorable. It’s a shame because Zazzara needs a screenplay to match his style and talents.
The Bunker Game will premiere on Shudder on March 17, 2022.
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Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.