Tuesday, 24 November 2020

The Odds (2018) - Horror Film Review

The Odds
is a very tense psychological horror that combines elements of the torture porn subgenre of horror. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed this, but what I did appreciate about this was that I was on the edge of my seat for the entire near one hour forty run time. This was written and directed by Bob Giordano in what was his feature film debut for both roles.

A woman (Abbi Butler - And Then It Goes Dark) desperate for money has heard about a secret and highly illegal game in which players participate in increasingly dangerous rounds of a game for a cash price of a million dollars. She manages to get a place in the game and this is where the movie starts. She is told by her game master (James J. Fuertes - Venom) that she is playing concurrently with others from around the world, and that she has to be the sole winner to get the cash prize. With each round more and more twisted than the last she must draw on her inner strength to have the physical and mental will to carry on.

I'm not keen on films that feature a lot of torture or mutilation so wasn't looking forward to those parts. The Odds manages to completely side step that aspect by heavily implying what is happening but doesn't actually show it. Rather than a cop out this was effective, the insinuations work very well, and avoid any subpar special effects. Of the game itself there are around seven rounds (I think). It starts off tame enough with the players having to see who can hold their hand over a candle flame the longest. It would be a spoiler to talk much more about the challenges themselves, safe to say it is revealed very early on the final round is the most deadly, with it a known fact that not all players ever survive the game. Along the way the challenges are nasty, especially one that involves losing body parts, and one involving a foot that I winced my way through (despite nothing actually being shown on camera). It is testament to the actors that I was still fully invested and coiled like a spring with anxiety.

The entirety of The Odds take place in one small room (outside of a toilet break and a dream sequence), grey and featureless save for a table and two chairs. I've seen quite a few films that take place in a single location, including one that had a similar premise, not that I can recall their names, save for the excellent [Cargo], though that one wasn't about a game. With a cast that includes five actors in total, and just two who have speaking parts they needed to do a good job. Thankfully both Butler and Fuertes were great, especially the later. I never really found the woman to be that likeable a character, I found her reasons for playing to be a bit odd. Sure she is desperate for money, but saying she is doing it for her daughter when there is a possibility it will result in her own death seemed a bit strange. It was also a bit off putting how down she was on the game master when she was there of her own free will. Her comments might have made more sense had she been forced into playing the game, rather than a willing participant. The game master was a great character, I enjoyed his slow change from friendly to psychotically nasty as the film progressed. The vast majority of the tension comes from the relationship between these two opposing characters, and I liked that the game master would put out theories as to what is actually going on which went together with what I myself had been thinking. It leaves the viewer guessing up to the very end what is actually happening.

The camera work is solid throughout, there is never a need for anything fancy, I thought the moments where the character is in pain and everything starts to look a little fuzzy was a nice touch. The majority of the camera work is focussed on the two different characters, with a featureless room there is no need for much else. I liked how psychological the story got, despite the brutal game being played, it is the second game between the two personalities that was the most compelling to me.

You can tell films like this succeed when the credits roll and you realise you haven't been bored once. Sure, towards the end it maybe seems to begin to drag, but it all culminates in a fashion that I may have found predictable, but which was also fun to watch. You don't always have to like a horror to still think it was decent, and with the amount of tension sustained throughout this one it succeeded. The Odds is due for release on 15th February 2021 via High Fliers Films.


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