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STORY GAME (2020)
Directed and written by Jason K. Lau.
Starring Alberto Rosende, Greer Grammar, Lyrica Okano, Ned Van Zandt, Ayumi Ito, Mari Yamamoto, Hyunri, Ken Yamamura, Ayaka Wilson, Jason Quinn, Kikka Oiwa, Mariko Tohmi, Gô Jibiki, Taka Higuchi, Nanami, Ruri Kobayashi, John Yamamoto, Masato Kosaka
A trio of art school students save their pennies and decide to go camping on a beach in Hawaii. Though the groundskeeper warns them, they decide to camp anyway and tell each other a trio of ghost stories around a campfire using an app a friend of theirs developed. The Story Game offers up a setting, a genre, and an x-factor and in this particular game, it has the group formulate a supernatural story set in Japan about someone with green eyes. Wrangling in the groundskeeper in as judge, the three each tell a tale of terror in hopes to win the game, but the groundskeeper has his own story to tell.
STORY GAME is an anthology all written and directed by Jason K. Lau. While some of the tales are better than others, I was impressed at the level of production and acting Lau was able to put together for this film. Each story has a different feel to it and while some left me wanting, the entire package is an impressively polished one. Here’s what I thought of each of the stories in STORY GAME.
Story One is about a new girl in town who becomes the subject of bullying by the popular gals in school. When a prank goes too far, she exhibits a dark power that none of them knew she possessed. This is the weakest of the bunch for me. It is a little too much like CARRIE, with a girl with powers being bullied by her classmates and the power itself is poorly explained. Even the bullying that the lead endures isn’t that horrible. Out of all of the stories of the bunch, this is by far the weakest.
Story Two tells the legend of the Split-Faced girl, who enchants men to believe she is beautiful, when her mask hides something monstrous. I kind of liked this urban legend as it delved into obsession and desire quite elegantly. The acting is above par in this one, mainly because the actors are older and the visage of the cursed girl with a scarred face hidden by a facemask felt timely, as well as mysterious and foreboding. Who knows what people are hiding behind their masks these days? This one dares to peek underneath.
Story Three takes place in feudal Japan, the time of the samurai. A young maid falls in love with her master, but when his jealous wife finds out, it means death for more than one of the people involved. This was an incredibly rich story for how short it was. There’s a fun DRUNKEN MASTER homage fight scene as well as some cool ghostly action. There are even some strange and twisted masks that are downright chilling to look at. I was impressed at how much range Lau got with this story and how powerful it ended. They saved the best for last in this one.
But the stories aren’t over when the groundskeeper has a tale to tell of his own. His last story is best left experienced with no prep. It’s a fun mix of sci fi and horror and proves my point that a story with different limitations and guidelines makes the whole thing feel a lot fresher. I feel the setting of Japan kind of limits STORY GAME from having as much variety as most anthologies. That said, Lau gets his money’s worth traveling into the past and the present, as well as covering stories set in high school, everyday life, and feudal Japan. He made the most of it and I guess this makes for much franchise potential with a whole new set of guidelines for STORY GAME set in a new exotic locale, but I think I would have liked this anthology more had each storyteller been given their own unique parameters to tell the tale. That said, this is a top tier looking film with solid acting throughout. The gore is limited, doesn’t go over the top or excessive, but there are some potent and poignant scares along the way. Only one of the stories let me down. That’s a pretty strong showing. STORY GAME celebrates the art of storytelling and provides a few quality thrills and chills along the way. I’d definitely recommend it for those who like their anthologies on the exotic side.