Brant Lewis calls The Bunker Game a film with beautiful cinematography and an excellent score that doesn't rise to its full potential.
Shudder Original, The Bunker Game, directed by Roberto Zazzara, has an intriguing premise, however, the film didn't live up to its potential. Co-written by Zazzara, Francesca Forristal, Davide Orsini, and Kt Roberts, it lacked the excitement of a Live Action Role-Playing session. Despite its fantastic cinematography and score, it failed to grab my attention.
After several mysterious accidents, a live-action role-playing game is interrupted and the players leave the bunker while the staff remains behind to investigate the disappearance of the game's mastermind, Greg. While searching for the missing person, the group of players wonders if the game was interrupted by the organizer or something darker. At a runtime of 90-minutes, the film still felt like a drag. The pacing made it hard to immerse myself in the viewing experience. While the LARP horror film concept was interesting, The Bunker Game failed to satisfy me. The bunker setting is underutilized and the plot wasn’t well flushed out. The cast of characters appears to exist only as placeholders.
Laura (Gaia Weiss) serves as the film’s protagonist and gives the performance her best despite the role being one-dimensional. Laura lacks character development and simply serves as a vessel for possession. The other characters aren’t memorable either and are hard to keep track of due to their lack of defining traits. They tended to blend together due to shallow writing. The performances were adequate but didn't elevate the material at all.
One bright spot is Marco Graziaplena’s cinematography. The tracking shots and camera movement were visually attractive. The lighting inside the bunker helped to convey the oppressive environment and fear of being trapped inside. Graziaplena brought the desperately needed atmosphere the film needed, making it at the very least, pretty to look at despite the plot and performances often disrupting it. Umberto Smerilli’s score serves as another positive. The use of synths and strings struck a nerve with me. One-piece featuring a music box chime stood out due to its distinct sound hitting just the right creepy notes and emotion for the scene.
The two elements are perfect primers for any potential scares, but The Bunker Game does not deliver on any of it. Instead, the scares are cliche. Even the supernatural elements of the film don’t contribute to anything significant. When a ghost appeared in Laura’s dream, there is no terror and the scene leaves no lasting impact. The plot twist also felt forced. Overall, the horror is derivative.
The writers call no attention to why people would be willing to engage in a fantasy that involves LARPing as Nazis. A Black character and a non-binary character LARP as Nazis in the film. The bunker once served as an actual Nazi bunker where Allied soldiers massacred the Nazis inside. While the base is fictional, the notion of anyone paying money to pretend to be a Nazi leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. If the filmmaker wanted to create a commentary about the horrors of the past by utilizing Nazi imagery and aesthetics, they failed. It plays as cheap and shallow. Ultimately, The Bunker Game never rises to its full potential. Perhaps it would have been better to leave the bunker doors closed.
The Bunker Game is now streaming on Shudder.