THE PRECIPICE GAME (2016) review

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Mainland Chinese horror consists mainly of ghost stories that end with rational twists in order to avoid the SARFT‘s censorship of supernatural elements, which makes Wang Zao’s The Precipice Game an exception: it’s a straightforward slasher with Saw overtones, and no fake ghosts in sight. It stars Ruby Lin as Chen Chen, a surgeon whose wealthy mother (Wang Ji) is a control freak who disapproves of most of her relationships. One day her current boyfriend Chuan (Kingscar Jin) offers to take her on a treasure-hunt aboard a massive cruise ship, with only a select few other players (Peter Ho, Gai Yuexi, Li Lin and Li Shangyi). Things start off weird, with an oddly elaborate game of life-sized but harmless Russian roulette, before taking a turn for the horrific, as players are killed one by one in a series of inventively sadistic traps.

The Precipice Game very quickly proves to be very contrived, its characters a laundry list of outdated tropes from the eighties: resilient heroine, shallow boyfriend, fat comic relief, slutty beauty, brooding alpha male… It’s like three decades of cinema never happened. The traps themselves are derivative of the Saw series: for instance, one character is gutted in a frenzy of barbed wire, like 75% of slasher victims since Saw came out. It’s like one decade of cinema never happened. The film’s only inspired and unsettling images turn out to be a dream sequence, and the cruise ship setting is barely exploited, amounting to a series of dank corridors. It has a few very amusing flashes of dark humour, but not enough to make its parade of clichés look knowing rather than trite. It’s never boring, and Ruby Lin is a fairly appealing heroine, while good Peter Ho does his best to brood convincingly despite hilarious floppy hair and the world’s lamest goatee. But nothing can prepare thaudience for the mind-boggling ineptitude of the misguided and ill-conceived final twist. It simply makes the twist at the end of Roy Chow’s The Murderer look like genius clockwork, and has to be seen to be believed.

Long Story Short: The Precipice Game is a derivative but entertaining slasher that pilfers American horror of the past decades and ends with a truly embarrassing twist, which alongside flashes of dark humour helps make it a guilty pleasure. **

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