'Game Over' Review: A confused mess

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

The Blair Witch Project (1999), a 1999 American supernatural horror film, started a new trend in horror movies—the found-footage technique wherein a part of the work is presented as if it were discovered film or video recordings. Now what really makes this look authentic is the grainy quality of the footage as opposed to the crystal clear, high definition image quality that cinema is generally associated with. Ashwin Saravanan’s Tamil-Telugu bilingual horror thriller too relies on the clever use of the found-footage technique (the film is presented by Anurag Kashyap; its Hindi-dubbed version is also available). In fact, the film opens up with disturbing images of a brutal murder probably captured on a video camera by the killer. In other words, the opening five minutes of Game Over plays like some harrowing snuff film.
Game Over revolves around a female gamer essayed by Taapsee Pannu. The kind of horror that Game Over offers is hardly common to Indian cinema. Typically Indian horror films are expected to be big, loud and flashy. There is little scope for anything that’s not over-the-top and the characters are supposed to be melodramatic and performances high on histrionics. That’s what Vikram Bhatt has achieved over the years with his horror films. He serves them with the same preparation each and every time without fail. And by doing so he has pretty much attuned the viewers with what they should expect from their horror films.

If we examined closely, Bhatt’s horror films are in many ways a continuation of the tradition started by the Ramsey Brothers in the 1970s-80s. However, Ram Gopal Varma is one Indian filmmaker who stands apart. He was never averse to experimentation in the genre, whether one speaks of psychological or supernatural horror. But, in the recent years, it has mostly been Bhatt and his trademark over-the-top horror films.
However, Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over marks a major departure in the style as far as the horror genre is concerned. The film certainly is closer to Varma’s brand of horror. But it is even closer to Hollywood films like Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. Another film that it harks back to is David Cronenberg’s EXistenZ, which just like Game Over, also revolves around a female gamer. In fact, the two films will make for an interesting double bill.
The strongest aspect of Game Over is Taapsee Pannu’s brilliant performance. She makes Swapna look vulnerable from the word go. Also, the film’s background music adds to the atmosphere. While Saravanan’s direction is good he falters on the writing front. The film features a CGI sequence of a girl falling down from a building which looks cheap and shoddy. Also, the film’s Hindi dubbing leaves a lot to be desired. While the film’s first half is quite flat, the second half does succeed in delivering some genuine scares. But, unfortunately, the end product despite its merits proves to be a confused mess.
A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian.

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