Inspired by an online challenge that went viral nearly a decade ago, Rebekah McKendry’s second feature feels out of date from start to finish. The central game is simple: one must enter the lift of a 10-floor building and proceed to travel in a specific sequence through a series of floors, the last of which supposedly opens a portal to a dangerous parallel world. The trick here is to close your eyes, or risk being torn to pieces by a mysterious apparition referred to as “the woman on the fifth floor”.
Such a scenario is ripe with potential for world-building details and creative designs, but there is little visual flair on show here. A group of popular vloggers head to a notorious lift where a girl has gone missing after attempting the perilous challenge, but the generic location is as inspiring and memorable as a doctor’s waiting room. Mentions of TikTok accounts suggest that Elevator Game takes place in the present, yet the vloggers are lugging huge shoulder camcorders about as if it’s two decades ago. Plastered with sepia-toned filters and juvenile sound effects, the snippets of these characters’ supposedly popular videos betray a lack of awareness of current online culture. It is no wonder that the dialogue rings so stilted, like a parody of how older writers imagine Gen Z-ers speak.
Cardboard characters aside, Elevator Game is also pretty sluggish, despite its relatively short runtime. Plodding through an endless string of dull shot/reverse shots between the quarrelling vloggers, the film finally reaches the dreaded fifth floor, but the payoff is tame and bloodless. With a bit with red lighting and a few jumpscares, this much-discussed other realm – and consequently the movie as a whole – are, ultimately, hardly worth the fuss.