Director: Cosimo Alemà
Writers: Cosimo Alemà, Romana Meggiolaro, Daniele Persica
Stars: Stephanie Chapman-Baker, Neil Linpow, Andrew Harwood Mills
A few years back there was a short burst of releases which re-appropriated the more-than-faintly-ludicrous activity of paint-balling for the purpose of horror films. Examples of the trend include Deadbox (2007) and Backwoods (2008) from America and Daniel Benmayor’s Spanish production Paintball (2009). They make up a sub-group of the survivalist horror genre, very closely related to ‘team building’ horrors such as Severance (2006) and A Lonely Place to Die (2011), in which a group of mismatched individuals go off to some isolated location somewhere to engage in a spot of outdoorsy one-upmanship, but end up the victims of psychopathic outsiders.
Italy’s contribution to the sub-genre was the little seen War Games (2011), which fits in neatly with a handful of other Italian films which followed the survivalist horror template and were made at around the same time (Shadow, In the Market). The story follows seven young men and women who decamp to some woods to play some heavy duty paint-balling (or, to be more exact, ‘air-softing’). Among them are the skeptical Lara (Stephanie Chapman-Baker, who we’re supposed to sympathize with because she ‘works for an NGO’ and is therefore obviously a ‘good’ person), PhD student Rico (Neil Linpow) and Crispin Glover lookalike Gino (Andrew Harwood Mills). Unfortunately, they stumble across a trio of heavily armed ex-soldiers who have been feeding their homicidal urges by killing dogs… but are now in need of a stronger fix.
With a budget of $5.5 million this wasn’t a low budget production (for an Italian horror film at any rate) and it’s a solidly professional affair, competently directed by music-video graduate Cosimo Alemà and shot by Marco Bassano (Shadow). Despite a lack of familiar names the performances are effective, perhaps because the majority of the cast are Anglophone and although inexperienced they are at least familiar with the rhythm of the English language (not that uncommon a problem in contemporary Italian horror films). Unfortunately it is let down by its rather undercooked script, which suffers from being predictable and full of narrative holes. There are effective sequences – the opening air-softing competition; the discovery of a spooky cabin in the woods; the climax, which leaves the lone survivor in a perilous position – but it just doesn’t add up to anything.