Rating: Not rated
Stars: Peyton List, Brendan Meyer, Kelcey Mawema, Kaitlyn Santa Juana, Dylan Schombing, Miriam Smith
Writer: Damien Ober
Director: Scooter Corkle
Distributor: RLJE Films
Release Date: November 11, 2022

In THE FRIENDSHIP GAME, the title refers to both a pastime and an actual object. The latter is a bowling ball-sized device that looks like a cross between a huge twelve-sided dice and the Lament Configuration.

Friends Zoosa (Peyton List) and Cotton (Kaitlyn Santa Juana), in the summer between high school and college, come across the Friendship Game at a lawn sale. They are mourning to prospect of separation from each other and from pals Robbie (Brendan Meyer) and Courtney (Kelcey Mawema) in the fall, when several of them will head out of town for higher education.

The older woman (Miriam Smith) running the lawn sale explains that the Friendship Game is meant to be played among true friends. Each must touch the Game and say aloud their innermost desire. If the friendship survives the game, it will endure forever, but “if your friendship doesn’t survive it, neither do you.”

Naturally, Cotton buys the damned thing, and gets her other three friends to play it. Cotton notes that all of them have expectations of what their futures will be, and phrases her desire as, ““I just hope we can break out of that reality.”

At this point, THE FRIENDSHIP GAME becomes confusing. Robbie has a theory about multiple realities, which seems to tie in with how the Friendship Game works. However, the Game obliges in ways that seem increasingly arbitrary.

We meet Kyle (Dylan Schombing), a slightly younger teen who has hacked into the feed of the camera in Cotton’s bedroom. Why does Cotton never appear to notice that it’s on when it shouldn’t be? Why don’t any of her friends notice that it’s on when they get together to play the game? Why does the video feed have an effect on the game, and vice-versa?

Then there’s what the friends say when they play the game. Two of the truths are concealed until later, as though these are major revelations. Instead, they just muddy the waters further for the viewer, although the characters are able to make deductions based on them.

On the upside, the acting is solid across the board, and though the characters are underwritten, the cast is personable.

Director Scooter Corkle knows how to stage a creepy party. He also makes good use of various horror memorabilia. There’s also amusing inclusion of a VHS tape of what’s purported to be an Italian slasher called BAG OF GUTS (actually the American-made 1981 NIGHTMARE).

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME is well-structured enough to arrive at what feels like its proper destination. This said, its strongest appeal may be as gateway horror for audiences who are in the age range of its protagonists.

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