Macabre…ish Horror Review: Arcade
Arcade, 1993/ 1 hr 25 min
At Dante’s Inferno, the local arcade, a new virtual reality game, called Arcade, is being tested and the CEO of the of the company, Difford (John DeLancie) is also there. He’s handing out home versions of the game, for free. His job at Vertigo Tronics, depends on this test working.
After therapy, troubled teen, Alex (Megan Ward), who lost her mother (Sharon Ferrell) to suicide and has an alcoholic father, hangs out with her friends where they talk about the new game, Arcade. They make a plan to check it out after school.
At Dante’s, they find out the new game, is not like any other game. It’s not just VR, it learns and adapts with each play. There are seven levels and they’re all different parts of Arcade’s universe until you reach it’s brain.
Unfortunately, the loser is imprisoned inside the virtual world by the in-game villain, for real. First to play is, Nick (Peter Billingsley), and he’s the best gamer. Next is Greg’s (Bryan Dattilo) turn and while he’s playing, everyone else is off getting their own home versions of the game. While they are all gone, Greg loses and disappears. His friends, including Alex, all assume he left and they all go home.
At home, Alex, hooks up her new gaming system and she’s welcomed by The Villain (Jonathan Fuller), who calls her by name and informs her that her boyfriend, Greg, lost and is still in the game. She doesn’t last very long before she bails out of the game. She’s still worried about Greg and calls around looking for him, meanwhile The Villain taunts and threatens her and announces that Greg is with him and that he is everywhere. She unplugs her tv and goes to Nick’s house.
When she arrives, he is deeply engrossed in the game and Alex tells him she think’s the game is alive, somehow. But Nick assures her the program is brilliant but not alive.
Meanwhile, Nick’s game turns itself back on and Alex’s certain it’s listening to them. She asks Nick to call their other friends. But even though it is after 1 a.m., every single one of their lines are busy.
As Alex is leaving, she asks Nick not to play the game again. The next day, Alex meets up with her friends at their regular place and time and only Nick and Stilts (Seth Green) are there. She lets them know that she tried to call everyone but the phones are still out of order. So she and Nick goes to their houses to check on them. At Laurie’s (A.J. Langer) house, they see her through the window, entranced in front of her tv. She’s staring into static and claims to see angels.
Suddenly, Greg pops on the screen and begs to not be left alone. Then The Villain threatens to come play in their world. Nick breaks the tv to make it stop and The Villain speaks through Laurie before she vanishes.
Nick finally believes Alex and just wants to go but Alex suggests they go to Vertigo Tronics to see Mr. Difford. Once there, Nick threatens the receptionist (David Sederholm), with calls to the media, to see Difford.
They act like they just want some tricks to win the game and Difford lets them meet the programmer, Albert (Norbert Weisser). He’s an anxious man and clearly is also been influenced by the game. He offhandedly says it keeps changing the rules. Then he shows the teens the game’s schematics and shows them the doorways in each level, along with six keys that unlock Arcade’s heart which makes it possible to escape it’s brain and reenter, reality. Except no one’s been able to do it yet.
They also find out each level gives you progressively less time to complete it. If you collect the 4th key, you get a free life, you have no hope of winning the game without it. The next half of the game takes place in the brain and it’s hard.
Vertigo Tronics is keeping some disturbing facts about the game to themselves, like how they are using a few hundred human brain cells for The Villain. The idea was to make it more realistic but it goes awry because the cells are from a deceased abused kid and his cells are still aware and vengeful.
The programmer’s best advice is to avoid the game altogether. But they can’t, because The Villain has their friends. So Albert gives them the schematics to help them out.
So Nick and Alex head back to where it all began, Dante’s Inferno.
Nick has to play, he’s the best gamer and he’s the only one of the two of them who has a chance of winning. The Villain welcomes them and tells them their friends are there and both Alex and Nick vanish into the game. Alex luckily wrote the schematics on her arm and so they play the game and do pretty well. But also, if you get hurt in the game, you get real injuries.
Alex sees, one of their friends, a very injured Benz (Brandon Rane), sinking into a sinkhole, holding a key. She doesn’t get there in time but has to jump into the hole herself to escape a creature as Nick disappears. Turns out, Difford manually activated the escape sequence which fried the interface. Nick is back at Dante’s, leaving Alex alone, in game and cannot easily return.
Alex sees two other friends, Lori and Stilts, who are now a part of the game. Alex successfully navigates the levels on her own and gets a key and an extra life when she rescues a new player, a little boy (Humberto Ortiz).
Nick is watching Alex’s progression through the game on the console as Difford works to fix the interface. The game takes quite a creepy turn as it works hard to convince the players to die which would mean an eternity of playing the game. But Alex out plays The Villain.
This film was directed by Albert Pyun, the story is by Charles Band but written by Stephen S. Goyer. The same Stephen S. Goyer who is best known for writing the screenplays for several superhero films, including “Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998), the Blade trilogy (1998–2004), Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy (2005–2012), Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). He has also directed four films: Zig Zag (2002), Blade: Trinity (2004), The Invisible (2007) and The Unborn (2009).” (Wikipedia)
Arcade is super nostalgic with the recognizable faces of Seth Green and Peter Billingsley. The gaming FX and CGI are very of the time (90s) and still pretty entertaining. This is more of an adventure flick than anything. It’s not too bloody or gory and it’s a quick and easy, sci fi b rate movie moment. I enjoyed it!
TW: Suicide, child abuse