Round 3 of voting for the next Death Games bracket is almost over; now is the time to make sure your favorites make it through to the end.
This October, in celebration of our five year anniversary, we’re thrilled to present Morbidly Beautiful’s first ever interactive film face-off — letting you vote for your favorite Death Game films over a series of five rounds, ultimately crowning the “King of Carnage”.
In week one, 32 contenders entered the ring. After a couple of bloody battles, 8 killer films remain. Now it’s up to you to decide which 4 films will have a chance to slay their way to the top. But you have to hurry! Voting for this round ends Saturday, October 10th, at noon Central.
MATCHUP 1: VERONICA VS BRAINSCAN
In our first of four matchups, two very different films are facing off. In one corner, we have a recent supernatural horror film out of Span, loosely based on true events involving a potentially deadly encounter with a ouija board. In the other corner is a 90s cult classic sci-fi horror film about a wicked entity that inhabits a CD-ROM computer game and makes life hell for a teen boy.
THE UNDERDOG: Veronica (2020)
Veronica is a critically-acclaimed Spanish horror film directed by Paco Plaza (REC) that made headlines for reportedly being too terrifying for many viewers to even finish watching. The film was inspired when Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro (1973 – 1991) reportedly suffered hallucinations and seizures after performing the séance at a school in Madrid to try to contact her friend’s deceased boyfriend who had died six months earlier. Her exact cause of death is a mystery, but her house allegedly became haunted after her death. The film was launched on Netflix’s platform with very little hype or fanfare. However, word of mouth quickly made it one of the streaming network’s biggest success stories, with fans falling in love with its scary story and chilling atmosphere. The fact that it was at least partially grounded in real life events made the film all the more compelling for many.
Watch before voting: Veronica is currently streaming for free on Netflix.
THE FAVORITE: BRAINSCAN (1994)
Proving that, for many horror fans, modern genre gems still can’t totally compete with the enduring classics of decades past, 1994’s Brainscan is currently winning this battle by a sizeable margin. When a lonely teenager (Edward Furlong) orders the latest interactive video game, the high-tech wizardry penetrates his subconscious, where his darkest impulses lead him through a deadly maze of murder, deception and desire. Pursued by a homicide detective (Frank Langella) and prodded by the trickster (T. Ryder Smith), he is torn between the worlds of good and evil, of reality and fantasy and, ultimately, of life and death. Though this one, unlike its competitor, was widely panned by critics (with only a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes), its beloved by fans for its endearing, quintessential 90s charm and its truly unique and memorable villain.
Watch before voting: Brainscan is not streaming for free anywhere, but you can rent it inexpensively from platforms like Amazon, Vudu, or Apple TV.
MATCHUP 2: AS THE GODS WILL VS SAW
Easily the toughest matchup of the competition, the master of mayhem, Takashi Miike, faces off against perhaps the most iconic and best known Death Games movie of all time.
THE UNDERDOG: AS THE GODS WILL (2014)
It’s no surprise that Saw is winning this matchup given its popularity, but it’s a testament to the brilliance of Miike that this matchup is still a competition. This supernatural horror film is based on the first arc of the manga series of the same name by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura. The film was released in the United States by Funimation. Shun Takahata is an ordinary high school student leading a boring life until one day he and his classmates are forced to play a game of death. With no knowledge of who’s behind the games, his only option is to continue winning to stay alive. In a way that only Miike can deliver, the film manages to be both sadistically playful and insanely gory.
Watch before voting: Watch for free with a Funimation subscription or buy on Vudu for under $10.
THE FAVORITE: SAW (2OO4)
Not much needs to be said about the the film favored to win this entire competition. The Saw films are a wildly popular horror phenomenon, as evidenced by the fact that new ones are still being not only made but clamored for nearly two decades after the first film first shocked and thrilled unsuspecting audiences. While responsible in large part for the phrase ‘torture porn’ being coined, it’s easy to dismiss Saw as nothing more than a brutal gorefest for us sickos, but it’s actually so much smarter and more substantial than that. The first film — about a terminal cancer sufferer finding people he feels undervalue the gift of life and forcing them to earn that gift in the most extreme ways possible — was made by James Wan on a budget of just over $1m. It premiered at the Sundance film festival in 2004, and festival director Geoffrey Gilmore held that the film was not only “bold, cleverly constructed and flat-out terrifying”, but also infused with “moral seriousness”.
Watch before voting: Watch for free with a Cinemax or Directv subscription. Rent on redbox for under $2, or rent/purchase from most major VOD platforms.
MATCHUP 3: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME VS READY OR NOT
In another difficult battle, a preeminent pioneer of the Death Games sub genre goes head to head with one of the newest — and most wildly entertaining — entries.
THE UNDERDOG: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932)
The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 pre-Code adaptation of the 1924 short story of the same name by Richard Connell, the first film version of that story. The plot concerns a big game hunter on an island who hunts humans for sport. The film stars Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and King Kong leads Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. It was made by a team including Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, the co-directors of King Kong (1933), and shot at night on the King Kong jungle sets. Currently holding a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this classic film is widely considered a masterpiece from the great days of horror, and it certainly helped heavily inspire many of the films that have competed in this Death Games bracket.
Watch before voting: Full film legally available on YouTube right here.
THE FAVORITE: READY OR NOT (2O19)
A film with a very different tone from its competitor, Ready or Not manages to be both intense and brutal as well as endlessly fun. In fact, it could easily be considered one of the best horror comedies of 2019 and one of the year’s biggest surprises. Starring the impossible not to love Samara Weaving as a recent bride name Grace who has just married to an extremely wealthy and extremely eccentric family. In order to prove she’s worthy to be one of them, she agrees to play along with the family’s strict tradition of subjecting newcomers to a friendly game on their wedding night. Grace draws a card to determine the game they’ll play. But she quickly learns this is no innocent game of Hide and Seek, and the stakes are much, much higher than she first imagined. For a small-budget, independent film, it made a decent box office, received good reviews from critics, and was even praised by Stephen King. This movie is an absolute joy to watch from start to finish, with an ending you won’t see coming.
Watch before voting: Watch for free on HBO Max, HBO/HBO Now, or Directv (or rent on Google Play).
MATCHUP 4: PUNISHMENT PARK VS BATTLE ROYALE
The final matchup features two films the explore the idea of society breaking down, and the subsequent imposition of terror and tyranny. One film feels painfully timely given the events and cultural climate of 2020, and the other is a film that could easily be called the ultimate Death Games archetype by which all others are judged.
THE UNDERDOG: PUNISHMENT PARK (1971)
Punishment Park is a 1971 American pseudo-documentary drama film written and directed by Peter Watkins. The setting is of a British and West German film crew following National Guard soldiers and police as they pursue members of a counterculture group across a desert. It was shot in the cinéma vérité style using hand-held cameras. Watkins heightened realism by using amateur actors, improvisation, and newsreel camera techniques, but he also had rigid control over editing to guarantee audience involvement and the clear expression of his personal vision. As relevant today as ever, the film works exceedingly well as a metaphor for social and political events of the time, such as the trial of the Chicago Seven, the Kent State shootings, police brutality, and political polarisation. The highly controversial and polarizing film was heavily attacked when it was released at the 1971 New York Film Festival and Hollywood studios refused to distribute it
Watch before voting: Watch for free with a Flix Fling or Fandor subscription, or rent on Flix Fling.
THE FAVORITE: BATTLE ROYALE (2000)
Battle Royale is a Japanese action-thriller film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, with a screenplay written by Kenta Fukasaku, based on the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami. The film follows a group of junior high-school students that are forced to fight to the death by the Japanese totalitarian government. The film drew controversy, and was banned or excluded from distribution in several countries. It’s an extraordinary futuristic nightmare inspired by the director’s real life trauma as a teenage soldier during World War II, when he and his teenage classmates were caught in artillery fire. Battle Royale‘s fame, when compared to similar films, is unmatched. While the basic plot extends back as far as 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game from Matchup 3, Battle Royale‘s innovation was staging the murderous game with teenagers — contrasting coming-of-age innocence with savage brutality in a way that’s impossible to forget.
Watch before voting: Stream this one for free on IMDBTV, Tubi, or Pluto TV.