Why do we create games that involve pissing off evil spirits? It seems like a bad idea to invoke the dead and call upon their attention. That goes double if the person playing the game is in a small room or metal box with closing doors. Yet — for one reason or another — people keep doing it anyway.
It’s human nature to be drawn to these narratives of the unknowable. These games are something many of us could walk right out and do after watching others fail at it and have their brush with horror. Elevator Game is a movie that takes the concept and tries to expand on elements surrounding the activity, but it keeps getting stuck somewhere on the middle floors.
The story focuses on a group of influencers fresh out of high school trying to make it in the adult world (a literal office building) with a fledgling startup — a channel that focuses on scary myths debunking local lore. Along with their recently hired intern, they need a new video to appease sponsors. Foolishly, they take the new guy’s idea to play the elevator game. But these modern explorers aren’t ready for what they’ve unleashed.
It isn’t a bad concept, especially for those aware of the real-world game and the mysteries behind it. That knowledge pre-establishes a creepy factor that can draw some interest to a film like this. Personally, the director pulled me in as well. Rebekah McKendry directed 2022’s Glorious, and I was hoping that some of that energy and entertaining charm would be transferred here. Especially so since the film seemed to be aimed at a younger adult audience.
However, McKendry fails to recapture the same energy. The directing is fine, most of the shots are serviceable, and there are a couple of moments that shine through. But other than some fun with the lighting, it felt like something was missing from the behind-the-scenes work.
The characters in this movie aren’t remarkable in any way, but they each feel just a little to the side of what their normal archetypes would be. They’re almost interesting, but not quite despicable enough to root for their deaths or play to type. This may not be as much on the actors as it is an issue with the script, which could have used some extra tweaks. There are some cheesy scenes, especially in the interactions, like the characters wanting to do more than they were allowed to or weren’t sure where to stop. The movie also kills off its arguable best character, Izzy (Madison Maclsaac), way too early.
An aspect of Elevator Game that’s easy to appreciate is the antagonist in the film, a ghostly apparition we don’t see much of for most of the hour and 34-minute runtime, but are given a full backstory on that works. We just need a better name for her than ‘The 5th Floor Woman,’ please. She’s played by Samantha Halas, an actual contortionist, which gives her movements and appearance an excellent visual fidelity that helps inspire the horror a smidge more. Her dimension, The Red World, seems intriguing, but we didn’t get to explore enough of it. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this vengeful spirit pop up again if we can adjust a few issues surrounding her.
The movie could have used better world-building overall, but especially with the rules of the actual game and what violating them truly means. Audiences get into horror more when they know the rules and are clued in about what to look out for. Some story beats feel tailor-made for further examination, but never return and feel perfunctory. The result is an uneven film with shaky follow-through.
The ball is also dropped a bit more at the end. The premise is solid and the first act feels like it takes its time to put the work in, but the big (incredibly obvious) reveal happens right around the change to the second half and then the last few scenes are almost sped up, leading into an unfortunately lackluster climax with a jump scare to finish us off. There is some seriously wasted potential here for a great Are You Afraid of the Dark-style twist ending. Most of the attempts at scary moments had some buildup, so I can’t say the scares were too bad. But most feel hokey and cheap, which left me hoping for a bit more ‘oomph’ by movie’s end.
Elevators truly can be scary, even without the horror elements. I thought the movie was going to focus on the fear of being locked in such a confined space with the supernatural threat, but what we got wasn’t bad. It’s hard not to compare this to Devil (2010), even if they are quite different other than their primary setting.
I definitely enjoyed this tale more, however, even if we didn’t stay stuck in there. It has problems, some scenes really show off the lack of budget, and I doubt Elevator Game will make much of an impact or impress too many people. However, it’s a great example of an attempt at creativity, something ripped straight from the creepy corners of Reddit with just enough real-world embers to get the fire going for many viewers. I just hope the next ride doesn’t get stuck halfway up trying to get to the penthouse.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 6.5 equates to “Decent.” It fails to reach its full potential and is a run-of-the-mill experience.