Macabre…ish Horror Review: Death Count
Death Count, 2022/ 1 hr 21 min
Rachel Phillips (Sarah French), a science teacher, wakes up, injured and shackled by a collar on her neck, on the floor of a cell. Once she’s up, a siren sounds at regular intervals. There’s a trunk with an odd assortment of tools in it. And a bottle of water and food are sent by capsule, on the wall is a monitor showing other people she knows and works with, who are in their own cells.
And then a man pops up on the monitor, he introduces himself as The Warden (Costas Mandylor), he informs them that they are there to play a game called And Then There Were…He says the number depends on them and their survival depends on what they are willing to sacrifice. And the players are referred to by numbers rather than their names.
The game has an online audience and like social media, they can get likes, in fact they’ll have to get as many as possible in order to survive. The audience will vote for who will go first. The rules:
- You cannot attempt to contact the outside world.
- You will follow and adhere to the set schedule.
The punishment is elimination if the rules are not followed, including refusal to comply at any moment. Also those with the least likes will also be eliminated.
Number 6, Jose Mendez (Robert LaSardo), expressed his disdain for the entire thing before it even begins. The Warden informs them all that an explosive device has been implanted at the base of their skulls. Failure to comply will result in detonation. To that Jose becomes even more determined to not comply and his head is blown open.
Number 8, Mr. Curtis (Dave Shecter), then begins to try to figure out how to get the device out. He is warned but as he removes the collar, the device detonates and blasts through his head, ejecting his eyeball across the room.
Meanwhile, the police are getting flooded with calls from people reporting the live stream and deaths. The police watch the stream but they have a mixed response. But they do launch an investigation, Det. Casey (Michael Madsen), is on the case.
Rachel (#3) realizes, Selena Marshall (Devanny Pinn) (English teacher) is in the cell right next to hers. Soon The Warden is back and the game begins. Number 7 (Gym Teacher), immediately resists, starts punching the wall and gets her arm caught in a trap. Her chain retracts, tearing her arm from her hand as she’s strangled. Her neck breaks just before her arm detaches. Three are gone before the game even begins.
The police watch in horror. And a boy who claims to be nephew to one of the victims, Jose Mendez, bursts into the precinct and gives a statement.
The audience chooses Number 3, Rachel, to start the game. She’s ordered to choose an item from her trunk. She returns with a box cutter and then ordered to remove her right thumb nail. She succeeds and round 1 is over.
Number 1, Mr Turner (Denny Nolan)(Head of the Board of Education), tries to intercede but is silenced.
Round 2 begins, and they have to choose an item from their trunks and they all have to choose a non suicidal self injury to perform on themselves. Number 2, Coach Roberts (Wesley Cannon), is super combative and after her uses his hammer on the wall, he’s sprayed in the face with acid. Mr. Turner (#1), argues against it while cutting his finger off. Number 5, Selena, gets the least likes and is eliminated, her cell fills with mustard gas. Her death is painful and messy.
Rachel (#3) notices after each dies, music plays and it happens to be an old nursery rhyme, 10 Little Indians. Coach Roberts (#2) has a plan, he says to be ready but it’s not much of a plan.
Round 3 begins and it’s another self injury test. This time the audience gets to choose the injury and the weapon, they vote for tooth extraction. And Coach Roberts (#2)is voted to go first and he refuses, his punishment is a syringe full of horse steroids, which is gonna be bad for his already bad heart. As it pulses through his body he starts carving on himself with a knife to get it out. His death is hard, gory and painful.
After the round, on Rachel’s monitor, is a photo of a former teacher, Charlotte Knight (Mindy Gilkerson). The survivors start arguing. Not just about their horrible situation but about work stuff, layoffs, cutbacks which was the cause of Charlotte’s suicide. She was a former theatre teacher. They all signed it unanimously and now they’re here. Three down.
Round 4, The Warden returns letting them known why they’re here, since they mostly figured it out. This round is another self injury, the audience chooses the drill as the tool. They are also given the opportunity to defend themselves against Charlotte’s death and if the audience believes, then they our immune from the challenge. For all except, Mr. Turner (#1), who’s antics have gotten him censured (spray with fuel) a warning if he doesn’t stop but he accidentally lights himself on fire with sparks from his drill, while also refusing to do the challenge.
Afterward, Rachel (#3) and Number 4, Principal Bruno (BJ Mezek) are the only two left and they continue arguing about Charlotte and who’s responsible for what.
The final round they need to get the most likes from the audience, whoever does, wins. And so they have to injure themselves enough to gain favor from the audience. How far are they willing to go to win a rigged game?
The police do eventually arrive and they find out who’s responsible for their captivity.
This is directed by Michael Su. I had my expectations set because Costas Mandylor, Michael Madsen and Robert LaSardo are in it. Not a blockbuster but a solid low budget flick and it was actually pretty good. Much gorier and more violent than expected but it made sense for the subject matter. The acting ranged from good to cringeworthy but the pivotal characters were in the good range, so it was fine. I’ll definitely watch this again.