Elevator Game, one of Shudder’s newer offerings, is a teen horror movie that mostly satisfies, as long as you don’t hold it up to the elevator movies that came before (my favorite of which is Devil, no contest). It is more of a viral challenge movie that takes place in an elevator, and in that category, it stands up to its peers, as long as you stay on this side of the Pacific. In Elevator Game, a group of YouTubers (“mash that subscribe button!) take on an actual urban legend that seems to have originated in Korea around 2013 where they follow a pre-set sequence of floors and rules that, if done right, will take them to another world – The Red World. If they do it wrong in ANY WAY, they will be ripped apart by a vengeful spirit. Let’s play!
Elevator Game opens on a girl streaming live, attempting the game that summons the Fifth Floor Ghost. She holds the handwritten sequence of floors and rules in her hand, and becomes more anxious with each progressive floor. After a few floors, the lights begin to flicker – electrical disturbance = ghost! The second to last floor to press is 5, and the rule is DON’T LOOK! It is REALLY hard to keep your eyes closed while waiting for elevator doors to close, especially when you think a ghost could be entering, and Becki (Megan Best) can’t do it. She breaks the rules. She disappears. The game is real.
Elevator Game’s core cast are not very likeable, there is no one to root for.
The core characters of Elevator Game are five just out of high school kids with a paranormal YouTube Channel that they hope will hit it big, since none of them have any other post-graduate plans. They are out of ideas, out of money, about to lose their sponsor, and seemingly don’t like each other very much. Cue good-looking fan (Gino Anania) who wants to work for their channel for free, and instantly has an idea for an episode – play the elevator game. He knows of some freshman in high school who played the game and disappeared, and even knows the building she disappeared from. It’s in town, so no travel budget necessary! The sponsor wants an episode by the end of the week or he’s pulling the plug, so the only option is to do it that night with little research, planning, or thought.
The team head to the building, squabbling all the way. On-screen talent Kris (Alec Carlos of Orphan: First Kill) is adamant that no one wants to watch them in an elevator for twenty minutes (BORING), but goes along anyway. The bickering between them is annoying, although as the movie progresses and they find themselves in real trouble, they put aside their differences and reach out to each other for support. It still doesn’t make any of them more likeable. Maybe I just don’t find YouTubers just out of high school pinning their financial future on subscribers likeable – how very “boomer” of me.
The Elevator Game gets interrupted, and things go very, very wrong.
After the first scene with Becki, it is quite a long time before the movie gets to the scares and gore. Kris is right, it isn’t actually very entertaining to watch squabbling teenagers riding an elevator for twenty minutes. It does build suspense because we, the audience, know that this is not a hoax and the danger is real – but it definitely drags here. The team’s game is interrupted at the nth hour and security kicks them out of the building – so they’re all safe right? The episode might be crap, but at least no one died. As anyone who has seen Jumanji knows – they are so very wrong because you always, ALWAYS must finish the game.
Elevator Game picks up from this point with some decent gory deaths, and one moment even got an expletive out of me. There is a back story to this Fifth Floor Ghost and her Red World that makes sense, but there is a lot that is never explained. Why that sequence of floors in the elevator? They say this will work in any elevator, but they seem to travel safely in other elevators after playing the game, and continue to return to this particular elevator – why don’t they just use the one in the building they’re in instead of continuing to trespass where they’ve already been caught? Why the fifth floor?
And what happened to the footage that Becki live streamed from inside the elevator? When Becki disappeared she was classified a runaway although people were watching her livestream, and even if there was electrical interference before the end – you KNOW that the last known footage of a girl that disappeared would have gone viral. And what is with the trend of bone-snapping contortionist ghost women with long black hair ever since The Ring? Doesn’t anyone have any new ideas?
Director Rebekah McKendry was a writer on Bring it On: Cheer or Die and most of the cast of Elevator Game was in that movie. I don’t know if that’s relevant, but it feels kind of like they were all drinking one night and the director pitched Elevator Game to them, and they all thought it sounded fun (or like a paycheck). Will it entertain you? Mostly. I enjoyed it, even though it’s not very good. Here’s what I recommend this Halloween: watch the movie, then find a building with at least ten floors (or use the one you live in) and play the elevator game yourself. Let me know what happens!
Elevator Game is streaming now on Shudder.