Elimination game horror-thrillers almost always work … all the way back to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, with many recent variants in which random folks are cooped up together and killed off or kill each other off or compete not to be killed off or turn out to have been killed off already and are snatched by a reaper intent on finishing the job. Director Michael Boucherie – who co-writes with David Boucherie – devises an original set-up to play this game and the freshness of the concept wedded to infallible plot mechanics helps this get past some variable performances. A low-budget British movie, it draws most of its cast from the soap Doctors – some of them are wobbly, though they all step up when things go into overdrive and manage a nice mix of ruthlessness and hysteria.
Six people who have been in group therapy since a botched robbery/hostage situation brought them together commemorate a year since their hideous experience by taking a weekend let on an isolated house. Weirdly, they all fess up – though not all at once – to getting tattoos which feature the number six, as if compelled. When Edward (Tristan Beint), the most against-this-whole-idea member of the group, goes outside to fetch stuff from the car, the number on his tattoo changes and counts down to zero as he is killed by a sudden-onset horrible skin condition. Rainbow (Amelia Bennett), a hippie-dippie chick, tries to connect to the internet and her number counts down. At the same time, others in the house – Edward’s wife Elsie (Louise Williams), doctor Beth (Georgia Winters), wheelchairbound Jaan (Simon Rivers) and alpha hero type Mike (Nathan Wright) – realise that their own ‘points’ have gone up, and that causing harm to another person seems to transfer points from the injured party to the injurer. Jaan, paraplegic since taking a bullet in the back while running out on the others, starts to get feeling back in his legs as he gains points. Some folks try to work out how the system works, while others just seek to turn it to their own advantage.
Of course, the body count rises … with some gruesome moments (including a bloody bit of self-inflicted tattoo removal) and a few decent gags (a key horror movie quote is interrupted with a scalpel in the face and a heartfelt ‘wanker’). The backstory is slightly more complex than it needs to be, with much talk of the guy who was killed in the robbery and revelations late in the day that not everyone in the group is an innocent victim … but, wisely, the whole story never quite comes out as the film focuses on what’s happening with these people now. A crucial cameo, very late in the day, by veteran Clive Russell – recently seen as Inspector Abberline on Ripper Street – opens up a whole new interpretation of what’s going on in this weekend retreat. This has rough edges, but also a raw B-picture vitality that commands the attention.