Murder Bury Win
by Cat McAlpine
Friends Chris, Adam and Barrett are trying and failing to launch their indie board game Murder Bury Win. When a mysterious benefactor expresses interest in developing the game, the friends have to ask themselves how far they’re willing to go to make their dreams come true.
Those unfamiliar with modern board games and the cutthroat, rarely lucrative industry that’s behind them may be left out on a handful of jokes. Especially the constant references to “Flaming Puppies,” a stand-in for the real game Exploding Kittens. But the film eventually descends into stakes we can all understand – life or death.
Writer/Director Michael Lovan spends a little too much time setting up the story and the other shoe could drop 10 minutes earlier. Murder Bury Win shines best when it’s being silly, and the more fun it has, the better it gets.
When Chris (Mikelen Walker) discovers he’s in the presence of his hero, he’s bathed in a holy glow from the window behind him. Fantasy scenes of the board game world make for fun vignettes. The horrifying use of a cheese grater pushes the comedic thriller into horror. These little moments stand out despite a sometimes stilted script.
The performances from the small ensemble cast shine across the board. Walker is a dreamer, and a stoic straight man who has finally had enough. Henry Alexander Kelly is able to summon grit for the soft and caring Barrett. And Erich Lane’s Adam becomes unhinged so easily, so seamlessly as the film progresses that he matches increasingly insane circumstances perfectly. Brian Slaten as Officer Dan and Craig Cackowski as V. V. Stubs both create fun, sometimes outlandish characters that counterbalance the main trio. And Lovan’s cameo brings such a weird energy that I wish he’d been in more of the film.
Lovan has an eye for color, effectively using red to bathe the remote cabin where most of the film takes place. The custom game mat, the too-long curtains, and even the backing of The Murder Wall (yes, you read that correctly) are all the color of blood. It trains you to recognize blood later as it appears in an otherwise white bathroom, in a fine mist across faces, and seeping through the bottom of a brown paper bag.
Each of the best friends is dressed in a bold signature color, yellow, blue, and green, like tokens on a gameboard.
Overall, Murder Bury Win is a zany look at our murder fantasies and what it takes for an ordinary person to suddenly become capable of such bloody acts. Whether you’re a board game fan or not, this film makes for a fun playtest.