While board games aren’t a prominent figure in films, they’ve been used as a focal plot point, to carry a story along as well as place the characters in their world and obey their rules, the most famous one being 1995’s ‘Jumanji’. But what if they were used, instead, as a guide to escape a horrific situation?
Enter ‘Murder Bury Win’ a crime/drama revolving around three friends who want nothing more than to have their board game, Murder Bury Win, placed on the shelves of every store. However, after a failed Kickstarter campaign, they are contacted by an anonymous buyer who wants to buy their game and bring it to the masses. But things take a turn for the worse after an accidental murder and the friends realize they must use their own game as a guide on how to hide the dead body.
This indie film was an absolute delight to watch. The lead actors (Mikelen Walker, Elrich Lane and Henry Alexander Kelly) are fantastic as the three friends who are so desperate to bring their board game to life. The writing is wonderful and, at times, brings dark humour into the film. The actors elevate the script by their delightful performances, giving each character their own personality. Chris is confident, Barrett is quiet and gentle while Adam is the optimistic and slightly dorky white male. However, as the film’s events take a turn for the worse, their personalities change as a reaction to the accidental murder. While Chris and Barrett are lost on what to do, the film is happy to show Adam’s journey to becoming a leader-come-psychopath. It’s disturbing but amazing to see this change and, while it may sound like this development wouldn’t work, it actually does seamlessly and never feels jarring. Furthermore, it can be argued that ‘Murder Bury Win’ is Adam’s descent into a madness that he always had, especially considering he’s the character who makes the plot point decisions. But the two other leads get their moments to shine as well.
Not only does ‘Murder Bury Win’ have fantastic leads, but it also has a wonderfully eerie side character, who unintentionally becomes the focal point of the film. Craig Cackowski (Community) plays V. V. Stubs, a board game extraordinaire who’s released the majority of the best-selling board games in this film’s universe. He also acts as the friends’ mentor, helping them with their game until things go down a dark path. Cackowski plays this eerie and manipulative character beautifully, demanding the audience’s full attention from the moment he appears onscreen. And, because he’s the unintentional focal point, this aspect was important to get right, which it does. He’s also a red herring from the second the leads meet him: he lives alone in the middle of nowhere in a small cabin, and has a wall of multiple, sharp weapons. The film does a great job at making its audience think it will go in a certain direction, only to then do the opposite later on. This type of unpredictability carries on throughout the whole film, making me want to see it to the very end.
The actors have a role to play in this film, but the board game and the music score have a role to play here too. The music is extremely important in ‘Murder Bury Win’. It’s not only there to accompany a scene, but to elevate it as well as heighten a certain moment. An example is when the three leads realize that the person they’re meeting is V. V. Stubs. Chris’ eyes widen and the character’s realization play out in slow motion, while Western-style music accompanies this. It may sound like a strange genre to pick for this type of action, but it works, giving the arguably common moment a different execution that empathizes the character’s emotions in that moment. The score uses different genres for the various actions and scenarios that are taking place, e.g.: the start of the film has a ‘Stranger Things’-esque score to make the film feel nostalgic.
The score is as much of a character as the actual characters are in ‘Murder Bury Win’. Not only does the music play a role, but the leads’ own board game does too, as they must use their own cards to figure out how to resolve their horrific situation. It’s a unique plot point and, while films like ‘Jumanji’ have brought the board game to life in the real world, there’s never been a film where the board game is just used as a guide, making this film unique and special. The board game also comes to life via re-enactments that occur at the very start of the film and throughout Stubs’ mentoring. The three friends will be seen in the same alleyway, with the weapons that they’ve picked from their own card deck during each playthrough of their game. This was an aspect that was particularly enjoyable, and I wish these re-enactments had appeared more, especially when they’re figuring out what to do with the dead body that they’ve gotten in front of them.
‘Murder Bury Win’ is a wonderful and unique film from writer and director Michael Lovan. The script is fantastic, and each actor is wonderful, elevating the roles that they’ve been given. Each character has their own personality, making them all memorable. Not only are the characters memorable and play an important role, but their own board game and even the musical score play certain roles too, essentially making them characters. ‘Murder Bury Win’ is a fantastically well-put together film that should not be missed!
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