“Why pray when Prayers are useless?”
Ghost Game is a Taiwanese movie from 2006 that caused a lot of controversy upon its release due to the movie’s setting which echoed The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which is a memorial in Cambodia to the killing fields during The Khmer Rouge’s time in power. The movie is banned in Cambodia & caused a great deal of tension between the two countries.
In Ghost Game 11 contestants are brought to an old war museum in Cambodia which was the site of dreadful atrocities committed by the communist troops on the inmates during the reign of the infamous Khmer Rouge, ending in a “Jonestown” type mass slaughter. Accompanied by the by the makers of the game show, the contestants enter the prison, each hoping to win the competition & prize money of 5 million Baht. The producers of the show have set up various tricks to spook the contestants into leaving until only one remains. It’s not long before contestants & crew disturb the spirits of the victims of the prison & the game becomes a deadly matter of life & death.
The plot of Ghost Game is simple enough. It combines elements of Battle Royale, R-Point & My Little Eye to make an effective movie. The trouble with Ghost Game is it’s sub genre. The ghost genre is a popular topic in Asian horror & the market is virtually flooded with these sorts of film. From the aforementioned R-Point, through the popular Ringu & Ju-on films to the classic Shutter there are literally hundreds of ghost movies in Asian cinema. This means that for any film of this type it really has to shine to be noticed. Ghost Game sadly doesn’t. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, far from it. Despite having it’s faults Ghost Game is a well made & competent movie. it just lacks that extra something that makes the likes of Shutter so good. The movie has some real highpoints. The setting of the movie is wonderfully creepy. The abandoned prison is a grim & foreboding place & provides a wonderful setting for the film. The cinematography is wonderful. The movie is bathed in a greenish hue which really works for the movie’s atmosphere. The whole reality TV show theme also, despite being a well-worn genre idea works quite well. The contrast of what is seen in the prison compared to what is shown on the banks of TV monitors in the control room works well. But Ghost Game is not without its flaws. There are too many characters & virtually no time is given to any characterisation. This leaves the movie with a group of stereotypical characters that it’s hard to warm to. The pacing of the movie isn’t great either. A long time is spent building up to a climax that seems very rushed. My last problem with Ghost Game may be more to do with me than the film. I am not a big fan of ghost movies. I generally find them dull. Unless the movie is something truly great like the wonderfully creepy Shutter this genre tends to leave me cold. Despite my love of Asian horror I even find classics like Ringu & Dark Water to be dull. Ghost Game didn’t really give me any sense of tension & atmosphere & seemed to rely on cheap & at times obvious jumps to illicit a reaction. I will say at least the movie avoided the clichéd “ghost with long hair” which seems to be a constant in these types of movie.
In closing Ghost Game is by no means a bad movie, it’s worth a watch & easily passed an hour & a half of my time. It just didn’t reach the heights it could have done. If you like a good ghost movie you could do a lot worse. Certainly worth a watch, just not spectacular.