If you couldn't stop watching the new Korean Netflix hit, you'll probably like these jaw droppers too
How are you enjoying Squid Game? That's the new Netflix phenomenon from Korea: someone offers a big fat cash prize to anyone who plays a string of children's games for the ultimate winner. Only there's a catch in the small print: all the losers get killed.
It is only the latest in a long and venerable tradition of on-screen games of death. You'll remember The Hunger Games and The Running Man, of course, but there are many more besides. That's what we're looking at today, a brief selection of the most deadly tournaments. Be warned: none of them are exactly The Generation Game.
When Squid Game dropped, certain clever people on the internet noticed a resemblance to a Japanese show called Alice In Borderland. Adapted from a Manga, this has a bunch of gamers forced to compete in a series of (off-line) games to stay alive. It's on Netflix too, if you want to do a compare and contrast, and there's another series coming soon.
Someone at Netflix must really like this format, because Squid Game is very much the Johnny-Come-Lately of the streaming platform's dangerous games. You might also care to check out 3%; hailing from Brazil, it is another TV series about competition, albeit with a small body count. Here young people from the slums compete to win a place “offshore” where the elite three per cent of humanity reside.
To the cinema! This film has Michael Douglas as a tightly wound money man whose brother gives him an unusual birthday present: participation in a mysterious game whose rules seem ill-defined and whose ultimate end seems to be “driving the player mad”. Or worse. No matter how well meant, that's not really not really a suitable gift for a birthday, is it? Tokens would have been better.
There have been quite a few Last Man Standing movies (The Gladiators; The Tenth Victim) but Battle Royale is the absolute best. A bunch of school kids are dropped on an island. Only one will be allowed off, and then only after s/he has killed all his classmates; a way, or so the government reckons, of dealing with youth crime. It's a brutal film, one brilliantly realised by Kenji Fukasaku: Lord of the Flies for the Playstation generation.
A curiosity, this. It was co-written by actor Anthony Perkins and none other than Stephen Sondheim, Emperor of Broadway. Sondheim is famously a great player of games and The Last of Sheila gives full expression to that, and his love of wordplay (the dialogue is sensational).
James Coburn is the millionaire trickster who invites his guests onto his yacht (including James Mason and Ian McShane) to play a week-long game to discover each other's secrets. There is, though, a darker purpose as they are soon to discover...
Hmm. Which of these ought to be included? Sleuth has a fiendishly smart script by Anthony Schaffer that adapts his acclaimed theatrical stratagem while Hard Target has Jean-Claude van Damme sporting a mullet.
Sleuth may trade clever barbs, ingenious reversals and two brilliant actors—Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine—at their very best, but Hard Target has Jean- Claude Van Damme (and his mullet) battling the big game hunters who have chosen him as their latest quarry, with action concocted by Hong Kong's legendary John Woo.
You can see why it's a dilemma.
Sébastien is a young immigrant to France, on the lookout for anything that will earn him some ready cash. So when he discovers a recently deceased colleague had been invited to do “a job” he jumps right in.
He might have been more circumspect had he known that the “job” would involve him playing Russian Roulette, with gamblers betting on the outcome. Although remade in the US (with our own Jason Statham and Ray Winston), you are, as usual, better off seeking out the glorious short, sharp shock of the original.
Ah, the 1990s, a time of harmony, prosperity and dial up modems. The internet was young, then, but people were still worried about it, often comically so. Killer Net is one of the most hilariously hysterical illustrations of that.
Shown on Channel Four in 1997, this extremely poorly researched show imagined a dangerous “online” game that leads credulous young people into some very dark nooks and crannies. It also starred Jason Orange, formally from Take That.
Feature image via YOUNGKYU PARK / Netflix
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