In the world of board game movies, “Murder Bury Win” makes “Jumanji” look like child’s play. The perils of escaping a jungle and the animals within it are nothing compared to disposing of a dead body and attempting to get away with murder.
The film, now streaming at Austin Film Festival, follows three buddies, Chris (Mikelen Walker), Adam (Erich Lane) and Barrett (Henry Alexander Kelly) on their journey into the indie board game industry. These men think they’ve made it big when their board game, Murder Bury Win, gets noticed by indie board game mogul, V.V. Stubbs (Craig Cackowski). But things quickly take a turn when the trio finds themselves dealing with murder in real life. The situation becomes even more dire when they decide to turn to their own board game for advice, one card at a time.
Michael Lovan’s directorial debut film is a testosterone-heavy story. Not a single woman makes an appearance throughout the entire film, but it makes sense. Lovan may have wanted to let viewers assume that only men would take an accidental death and blow it out of proportion.
Tasteful gore adds another level of suspense to the outrageous plot. Rather than filling scenes with copious amounts of blood, Lovan gives viewers the gift of imagination. He shows just enough — a machete hacked into a leg, a montage of grating off fingerprints — and lets people fill in the gaps themselves.
Lovan tops off the stressful situation with generous doses of humor, which range from dry and situational to completely absurd — Barrett attempts murder with nail clippers and Adam plays rock paper scissors with a bloodied machete in his hand. The periodic slices of comedy are refreshing and take the edge off without ever distracting from the main storyline.
Performances from Walker and Cackowski make the film, portraying tense reality that blends seamlessly with hilarity. Walker’s straight face in moments of dramatic irony and Cackoski’s eyes, which he has the ability to make nearly pop out of his head, feel natural in the film, even though they most definitely should not. Lane also brings his A-game as the murder-obsessed friend turned questionable psychopath. His wide grins and can-do attitude in sinister situations both lighten the mood and thicken the plot.
Walker and Cackowski’s strengths makeup for Kelly’s weaker character. Although Kelly plays a textbook side character who is sensitive and caring, a foil to his friends with more headstrong personalities, his performance feels forced, especially pulling the viewer out of the experience of the film when the story focuses on Kelly in the beginning.
While the start of the film is slow going, it’s well worth the wait. The combination of niche board games, chaotic men and blood, make “Murder Bury Win” an excellent addition to the also niche board game movie genre — just as long as you don’t have a weak stomach.
Rating: 3.5 grated fingerprints out of 5