The Bunker Game - New Release Review
Director: Roberto Zazzara
Starring: Gaia Weiss, Mark Ryan, Lorenzo Richelmy, Amina Shmaïl, Makita Samba, Serena de Ferrari
Written by: Francesca Forristal, Davide Orsini, Kt Roberts, Manuela Cacciamani
Produced by: Jad Ben Ammar, Leo Maidenberg
Cinematography by: Marco Graziaplena
Original Score by: Umberto Smerilli
After several mysterious accidents, A Live Action Role Playing game set in a fictional German bunker is interrupted and a small group of staff remain behind to investigate the disappearance of another colleague.
A slow burn, atmospheric ghost story set underground in a real life bunker in the aftermath of World War II? Yes please. ‘The Bunker Game’ is an original enough concept and an ambitious one at that but sadly it lacks any likeable characters and the writing doesn’t really do it any favours.
The film opens with rewritten archival footage and the rules of a live action roleplaying game based on an alternate version of historical events concerning Germany and the hypothetical Fourth Reich. This leads into an elaborate staged incident involving a traitorous doctor. Everybody we’re introduced to here is an actor playing a character in a game. Our protagonist is Laura (Gaia Weiss, Vikings) who is having a secret relationship with fellow roleplayer Greg (Lorenzo Richelmy) She reveals that she is pregnant which naturally weighs on her mind and presents a number of difficult decisions she’ll have to make in her foreseeable future. At a late night cast party Laura sees a woman with red hair. A stranger she hasn’t seen before.
After some electrical issues and malfunctions, the bunker is evacuated and the game ends prematurely. A small group of actors stay behind and are soon on the hunt for Greg, the man behind the games ending, who has worryingly disappeared. Laura continues to see visions of the mysterious redhead and as the cast make their way through the bunker in search of Greg, the increasing uneasiness amongst the group becomes progressively more apparent. It soon turns into a struggle of paranoia between the group who accuse Laura of working with Greg in playing mind games when they become locked in, which she flat out denies on a number of occasions. A divide is imminent with fatal consequences.
‘The Bunker Game’ is highly stylized and director Robert Zazzara is certainly doing everything in his power to make this film stand out from the crowd. Visually it’s difficult to find too many faults with it especially considering it’s clearly working within a modest budget. Zazzara and DoP Marco Graziaplena work well together in framing shots and making everything at least look more interesting than it might actually be. This is helped by the fact that the bunker, reminiscent of a haunted house, kind of works as a character in itself. There’s lots of long, barren corridors that exude an eerie vibe. I would have liked for the bunker to look even more run down, like an ancient relic of sorts. Atmospheric lighting helps give the bunker more of an edge and there really are some gorgeous shots filtered in between the poor dialogue.
As mentioned above the characters just aren't really that interesting and with the exception of Laura, we don't spend enough time with any of them to care. They just sort of exist in this story. There's a non-binary character, which is great to see, but they don't get much screen time unfortunately.
When we start to get reveals of just who this mysterious redhead is and what might be going on, that's when the bunker starts fighting back. The stranger is a singer who is in love with a Nazi soldier and who was gunned down in a raid during a night of entertainment. The twist is that the stranger is also pregnant so there is a ghostly connection with Laura now and the need to protect her and her unborn child against the haunted bunker. Some of the group start dying off in some pretty creative ways to be fair and in the end it's revealed that one of the group, Harry, is actually the one behind Greg's disappearance. You've guessed it. He's the last person we would've suspected and it seems that his motive is simply that he is in love with Laura. This reveal and another about one of the group actually being a real life Nazi supporter just feel very flat and underwhelming.
There's a few nonsensical decisions made in the script. You can tell there were probably too many writers having their input. However with a number of tweaks (more scares, double down on the group paranoia etc) and better character development 'The Bunker Game' could've really been a great ghost story flick.
- Gavin Logan
'The Bunker Game' is available to stream right now exclusively on Shudder