The challenge with any horror film or psychological thriller is to remain unpredictable up to the very end where audiences hope, and expect, one final twist of the real/metaphorical knife. And The Badger Game does this brilliantly, after taking viewers on an intense, occasionally gory often harrowing 99-minute journey. The acting is strong and committed throughout and the filmmakers wring impressive tension out of the basic revenge/kidnapping plot and limited locales. Sweet-faced blonde Alex (an appealing Augie Duke) convinces ex-friend Shelly (an excellent Jillian Leigh) to become part of a scheme to exact revenge on Alex’s married boyfriend Liam (Sam Boxleitner) who dumped her. The plan: kidnap him and hold him until he agrees to wire money from his fat savings account into Alex’s and then let him go, no real harm done and lesson learned for Liam (don’t fuck with Alex; in fact, don’t fuck around at all anymore, return to the fold of your faithful wife and family).
Unfortunately for their not-best-laid-plans, Alex relies on Kip (Patrick Cronen), her psycho brother, for the muscle who, if he were a driver, would be referred to as having a lead foot. In other words, it doesn’t take much for Kip to flip and bash someone over the head or strangle them to death whether he knows them or not (a third co-conspirator, the alluring Jane (Sasha Higgins) meets a very unfortunate fate not long after Kip flirts with her). Without giving too much away, Liam turns out to be a hemophiliac, thus reacting badly to some rough handling from Kip; a detective Liam’s wife had hired to spy on him gets in between Kip and a lawn tool; and pretty soon Kip realizes his co-conspirators are potential witnesses and, well, there’s only one away to truly get rid of potential witnesses. Kip is resourceful, too, and one can pick up a few pointers here about how to properly dispose of a body sans fingerprints and identifiable teeth.
In The Badger Game (the term refers to a means of blackmail, extortion or intimidation, especially one based on a sexually compromising situation) filmmakers Josh Wagner and Thomas Zambeck keep the tension riding high with occasional moments of slow if still labored breathing. While it’s easy to root for Shelly and Liam to survive, Duke’s Alex is a more complicated case. She’s the instigator of the crime and must know what her unbalanced brother is capable of. When things start to spiral out of control, she struggles with her desire for revenge and the love she still feels for Liam. She didn’t want Liam dead after all, she just wanted some easy money and to teach him a hard lesson. How things will end remains uncertain to the very (satisfying) end, the tension augmented nicely by the music used throughout, ranging from unsettling dissonant jazz to punk, punctuating the very dark doings.
Review written by Mike Fishman.
Visit the website: The Badger Game