Genre games

DEADLY GAMES

2 Stars  1982/88m

“Only he will hear you scream.”

A.k.a. Who Fell AsleepThe Eliminator

Director/Writer: Scott Mansfield / Cast: Jo Ann Harris, Sam Groom, Steve Railsback, Christine Tudor, Denise Galik, Dick Butkus, Jere Lea Rae, Robin Hoff, June Lockhart, Colleen Camp, Alexandra Morgan.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “I’m taking a shower… No, I don’t look like Janet Leigh.”


Filmed in 1980 and shelved till ’82, here’s a weird quasi-slasher film, that defies most genre pigeonholing. I’d call it a rom-com-killodrama.

Woman is stalked and killed at her remote house. While there’s no evidence of foul play (cause of death was ultimately a fall), her plucky, motormouth estranged sister Keegan (Harris) suspects otherwise when she comes to town. Reacquainting herself with old school friends in the homestead, Keegan also flirts heavily with married cop Roger (Groom), and learns that, amongst the adults of Whereversville, a culture of adultery has emerged and maybe even a bit of homosexuality.

Deadly Games unfolds differently to expectations, flitting from one genre to another for however long it wants. For a while, it’s a sort of Real Housewives girl-gossip feast with the string of targeted friends talking husbands n’ shit. After one of the group reportedly drowns after a party, instead of anybody sitting upright and thinking ‘hmm, two suspicious accidents in a short while, how’s about we frickin’ investigate?’

Instead, the film hop-scotches across to the rom-com mode as a curious threeway between Keegan, Roger, and his friend Billy, a PTSD-suffering veteran. They fool around in the gloomy cinema Billy owns, throw a ball around in the park, and laugh all the way to the sounds of a gushing ballad that sounds like it came from an episode of Fame (“Oh damn, I’m lost in loooove agaaaaaaaain!”)

Come the 75-minute mark, it’s almost as if Scott Mansfield realises he hasn’t thought of an ending so quickly – very quickly – wraps things up and then kind’ve decides to just leave a few things unresolved and just roll the credits (in order of appearance, but even that’s incorrect). The identity of the killer is pretty much who all the arrows were pointing at, which is pretty disappointing.

However, by far the weirdest element of Deadly Games is Jo Ann Harris. As the heroine, she’s nothing like your Laurie/Ginny/Marti. A wisecracking magazine writer, Keegan just never stops acting like a kid with ADHD, relentlessly commenting on everything, showcasing the film’s strongest point – it’s dialogue. The schtick begins to grate after awhile, like she just hasn’t got time to take the deaths seriously and is more concerned with her romance with a married man! And the film can’t even be written off as a teen horror as the players are adults and thus should maybe know a bit better, act a little more grown up, and be less annoying.

The mystery element would work well as a miniseries, and maybe dilute how fucking annoying the heroine is, but, some witty lines on the side, Deadly Games just can’t decide what it wants to be.

Blurbs-of-interest: Railsback was in Trick or Treats and Slash; June Lockhart was in Whisperkill.

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