Frustrating Horror Mystery Feels Like a Messy Rough Draft

Jan 20, 2023

Home Movie Reviews The Friendship Game Review: Frustrating Horror Mystery Feels Like a Messy Rough Draft

The film tends to bite off more than it can chew, and the end result is a colossal disappointment.

The idea of “friends forever” is a nice sentiment that many people think about throughout high school. For some, it’s hard to imagine growing apart from one’s best friends even at the face of dramatic changes like relocation, college aspirations, and personal growth. These are concepts screenwriter Damien Ober plays around with in a horror mystery/thriller that aims to test loyalty among a group of high school friends as they transition to new chapters in their lives. Directed by Scooter Corkle, The Friendship Game had all the elements it needed to succeed in this genre. However, the film tends to bite off more than it can chew, and the end result is a colossal disappointment.

Cotton (Kaitlyn Santa Juana), Zooza (Peyton List), Courtney (Kelcey Mawema), and Robbie (Brendan Meyer) will be friends to the end — at least, that’s what they think before a mysterious object puts them through a series of trials to test the strength of their friendships. After reciting their deepest desires to each other while touching the strange item, the next few days test their loyalties to one another. One among the friend group goes missing while the game rewards the aspirations of the others. To make matters worse, the object has increasingly destructive consequences the deeper into the game they go.

Related: The Friendship Game Clip Teases A Terrifying Test Of Loyalty

Peyton List and Kelcey Mawema in The Friendship Game

Scooter Corkle’s horror feature poses the question, “What happens to one’s friendships as life moves on and people grow older?” It’s an honest question to ask and a great foundation for a feature that centers around the fear of being left behind when peers begin to create new lives for themselves. However, The Friendship Game struggles immensely by doing too much with a script that offers very little. The characters are thin and seem to unrealistically overreact at every turning corner. The editing and sequencing of events are odd and tend to disrupt the natural progression of the story. Essentially, the potential was there, but far too many things go wrong to deem this a must-watch.

One could easily examine The Friendship Game as a genre experiment that implements components from its predecessors to build off the intrinsic intrigue. Truth be told, the film does borrow from the likes of Pete Travis’s Vantage Point, intertwining perspectives to slowly reveal the final outcome of “the game.” Yet, there’s a missing element that Vantage Point has that The Friendship Game severely lacks among these various perspectives: Simplicity. The two are derivative and gimmicky by nature, but Corkle’s film isn’t straightforward enough to keep the attention of its core audience. The flashbacks leave more questions unanswered, and the sequences rarely feel like they serve any purpose to the inherent theme. Basically, the film seems like a rough draft that had been unfortunately rushed to production.

If not for the cast, led by Peyton List, it would be easy to write The Friendship Game off as undeserving even of a background watch on a slow Friday night. Honestly, even the background music overpowers the dialogue and would make that difficult to do. But seeing the early chemistry among the four friends is sweet enough to remind anyone of the good old days of high school. The cast does a wonderful job conveying this onscreen. Unfortunately, these moments are short-lived as the characters are quick to turn hostile with one another. It’s perhaps an element or side effect of the game, but again, it’s not entirely nor adequately explained throughout the script.

The Friendship Game is the kind of film with which one should manage expectations. It doesn’t properly execute its themes, nor does it sufficiently reveal enough about the characters and their circumstances for audiences to buy into the story. And yet, there are glimpses, sprinkled throughout, of a different version of this movie that could have been good — even great. With a committed cast and even some fun horror sequences throughout, it may just be enough to forgive the messiness one has to navigate through to find it.

Next: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review – A Fitting, Ambitious Tribute To An Icon

The Friendship Game will release in limited theaters, on digital, and on demand Friday, November 11. The film is 87 minutes long and not rated.

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