Elevator Game is the new film by Rebekah McKendry, a director who caught my attention with All the Creatures Were Stirring and impressed me with Glorious. On the other hand, she also has a writing credit on the dismal Bring It On: Cheer or Die. So I was a little apprehensive when she did another teen-themed film that not only shared a lot of that film’s cast but was based on an urban legend that’s about ten years past its expiration date.
However, it was an enjoyably creepy legend. I even got talked into playing it walking back to my hotel after several films and several beers at SFFF one year. Of course, nothing happened, but it was unnerving when the doors opened and I heard voices from somewhere down the hall.
Elevator Game opens on an effective note, alternating between shots of Becki (Megan Best, Fractured, Vandits) nervously pressing buttons and the elevator’s machinery. Then something goes badly wrong and she falls victim to the entity known as The 5th Floor Woman.
Her disappearance leaves her brother Ryan (Gino Anania, I Still See You, Abducted by My Teacher: The Elizabeth Thomas Story) distraught and looking for answers. He ends up becoming an intern for a group of YouTubers Chloe (Verity Marks, Toys of Terror, Missing and Alone); Kris (Alec Carlos, Orphan: First Kill, Tales from the Hood 3), Matty (Nazariy Demkowicz, Radius, Black Field), Izzy (Madison MacIsaac, Bring It On: Cheer or Die) and their producer Kevin (Liam Stewart-Kanigan, Speak Your Mind, The Ash Under My Nails) whose channel is devoted to the supernatural.
When their sponsor demands a new show within a matter of days he sees his opportunity and suggests the Elevator Game as a quick and easy topic.
The script by Travis Seppala (Captive, Prodigal) rather ironically references its own biggest problem about twenty minutes into the film when Kris says he has no idea how to make riding up and down in an elevator interesting. Unfortunately like all too many other paranormal investigator films, it can’t make setting up the equipment interesting either which makes for a long opening act.
While it never recaptures the feel of its opening scenes Elevator Game does pick up a bit after they replay the game and bring down the wrath of The 5th Floor Woman on themselves. The problem is rather than build up the story of her Red World and make her make her a unique threat, the filmmakers were content to present her as yet another refugee from a J-Horror marathon, something that’s as far past its prime as the elevator game itself.
We do get a backstory for the woman, but it doesn’t explain why she’s killing random people in elevators rather than going after those responsible for her death. Or why she haunts elevators all over the world. But then little about Elevator Games makes any sense.
Becki never makes it off the elevator, she just vanishes. The others are stalked, some are quickly dispatched others are toyed with before they’re killed. One is levitated and their bones snapped in mid-air, another simply gets a fist through their body. Any sense of logic is tossed aside for whatever seemed like it would look good.
Elevator Game does at least look good, McKendry has a nice eye for shot composition, and cinematographer Brad Crawford (The Return, Scheduled Violence) realizes that vision nicely. But looks and a few jump scares can’t save a fatally flawed script. This needed everything from a reason why the game had become popular again to a better explanation for the haunting and the other dimension. But most of all it needed to be scarier, a hell of a lot scarier.
It’s extremely disappointing to see McKendry follow up Glorious with a film like this. Doubly so because Elevator Game’s concept had so much potential. A potential that was wasted and ignored in favour of a catalog of badly overused cliches. Ultimately the only way this game is not to play.
Elevator Game debuts today, September 15th, on Shudder.