War Games (2011)

A group of young friends decide to take a paintballing excursion in an abandoned military fort, somewhere deep in the countryside. Everything goes well until Monica (Valene Kane) goes missing and they find a slaughterhouse full of dead dogs. The situation worsens when the party comes under attack from an unknown enemy, who use bullets instead of paintballs. Their game? War. The prize? “The girl”.

It is a relatively simple tale, but one that is fantastically well executed. The direction, acting, score and script are gritty, serious and believable. Once the violence begins, it’s a thrilling cat n’ mouse chase that is brutal, bloody and incredibly tense. Director and co-writer Cosimo Alemà does not glorify the horror, but focuses instead on the characters and their own battles, physical and emotional.

Neil Linpow and Daniel Vivian are especially noteworthy as good guy Rico and not-so-good guy Vinnie, excelling in every scene. Sadly the film is slightly let down by Stephanie Chapman-Baker, whose range of emotions does not quite fit the taxing role of Monica’s doting sister Lara. It certainly does not ruin the film, but when she picks up a rifle and goes all Ripley on us, it’s simply not convincing.

A minor issue some may find is that Lutz Michael’s “Uncle” is very difficult to understand, with a rough, undetermined accent and you may miss half of what he has to say. I put on the subtitles when we first meet him, because I literally understood only the word “Flamingo” and that really made no sense in the context of the scene… This is a shame, really, considering Michael gives an otherwise excellent performance.

War Games shows how films of this ilk should be made. In 2009 a film called Paintball was released and it was a giant mess (see our review here) failing miserably to capitalize on the drama behind the situation by forcing American accents on a European cast and adding a needless twist. War Games uses the accents of the actors and is entirely twist free, and it benefits hugely from doing so.

With some excellent acting, solid direction and a genuinely great ending, War Games is definitely worth watching. It may move no boundaries or offers few surprises, but for a straight-laced, dramatic horror-thriller it is a superb piece of work.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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