Dangerous Game (1988)
Analog Man can not live on DVD and Blu-ray alone. In this ongoing column we blow the dust off our VCR's and travel back to an ancient time where VHS tapes ruled the earth. Our mission? To re-discover those forgotten gems that are yet to receive the digitally enhanced 7.1 channel surround sound treatment...

Director: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Miles Buchanan, Marcus Graham, Steven Grives, Kathryn Walker, Sandy Lillingston, John Polson
Screenplay: Peter West
Country: Australia
David, Jack, Katherine, Ziggy and Tony are your typical bunch of 80's students at a Sydney University. Jack fancies Katherine, Katherine fancies Jack, David fancies Ziggy, and Ziggy fancies David, but none of them seems have enough courage to do anything about it. Their lives are fairly ordinary, except for the fact that Jack is the constant victim of harassment from Murphy, a mad Irish copper with a fairly large chip on his shoulder who is always coming up with inventive ways of slapping Jack with parking tickets and anything else he can think of. It seems as though Murphy's harassment of the innocent citizenry has earned him no friends on the force however, and after a high speed chase with Jack that results in a spectacular motorcycle accident, Murphy finds himself suspended form the force pending further psychological evaluations.

While things aren't going all that well for our mad Irish friend, things are definitely on the up for Jack and David, who have finally summoned up enough balls to ask Katherine and Ziggy out on a date. Courtesy of David's parents being out of town for the weekend, a get together is planned, with good buuddy Tony (isn't there always an odd one out?) tagging along for good measure. As is the tradition at an Aussie shindig, the proceedings kick off with the group gathered around David's fancy new computer system, drinking non-alcoholic beverages and marveling at his hacking skills, which he demonstrates by hacking into the security system of the up market "Mark Wells" department store and fiddling with their door locks. With nothing better to do, they all head down to the store to see if, as promised by hacker boy, the back door has been opened, and upon discovering that is has, they naturally decide to go inside. It is from that point on that things start to get interesting, as psycho cop Murphy follows them into the store and closes off their only exit.

With the group locked inside the department store and (for the time being at least) oblivious to Murphy's presence, they decide to make the best of a bad situation by getting up to all manner of hi-jinks, which include riding motorcycles around the store and a brief spot of semi-naked shenanigans in the bedding department, but theysoon realize they are not alone, and that their un-invited guest might in fact be in the mood to stalk them and kill them all off one-by-one. With escape from the high-tech store out of the question, they have only two choices: find a hiding spot until the store opens the next day, or make good use of some of the stores more lethal implements and fight it out.

Dangerous Game is by no means an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, but there is enough on offer here to keep you entertained for it's duration. Steven Grives puts in a good performance as Murphy, who manages to illicit some sympathy from the audience despite the fact that he is a complete and utter nut case (it's interesting to note how his characters motivation for the stalking of the group changes as the film develops). The rest of the cast does a decent enough job with the material on offer, although it should be noted that their characters weren't exactly all that interesting to begin with. By far the major selling point of this film is it's visuals, and it could be argued that this movie is a case of "style over substance". The department store itself looks fantastic with some nice gothic touches, but the real stand-out is the inventive camera trickery of director Stephen Hopkins and cinematographer Peter Levy, who treat us to numerous crane shots and some very impressive steady cam work. If nothing else, the film served as a great showcase for their abilities, and the pair were quickly snapped up by Hollywood. Hopkins would go on to direct films such as A Nightmare on Elm St 5, Predator 2 and the big budget sci-fi adaptation Lost in Space, while Levy would work as a D.O.P on such films as Broken Arrow and Cutthroat Island, as well as most of Hopkins' Hollywood efforts.

Placing this film into one particular genre can prove to be a difficult task. While the basic premise is standard slasher material, the movie itself bears little resemblance to films of that sort with the characters putting up much more of a fight than we are accustomed to seeing, and as it nears it's conclusion it actually becomes more of an action film with some interesting motorcycle stunts, shotgun mayhem and a hair raising sequence that takes place on the department stores roof top.

Genre identity issues aside, Dangerous Game could prove to be a worthwhile experience for those who aren't looking for anything incredibly involving. The slick visual style of Director Stephen Hopkins is always pleasing to the eye, and he keeps things moving at such a fast pace that there is barely time for us to notice any real flaws in the film. While I'm not exactly suggesting that you get onto eBay right now and try to find a copy of this one for yourself, it's worth a look if you happen to stumble across it on your travels. At this stage the film is not available on DVD, so a scuzzy ex-rental VHS is about the only way you'll get your hands on it.
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