Gatlopp, directed by Alberto Belli, begins with Paul (screenwriter Jim Mahoney) moving out of his house, as his wife, Alice (Shelley Henning), wants a divorce. Paul’s good friend Cliff (Jon Bass) lets him move into his home and invites old friends Sam (Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Troy (Sarunas J. Jackson) over as well. The foursome hasn’t hung out in so long that Sam never saw the soon-to-be sold house.
But the ever-loyal Cliff wants to try and stir up some old, good, nostalgic feelings in Paul, Sam, and Troy, so he has everyone play a drinking game he discovered. Unfortunately, Cliff interrupts Sam from reading all the rules, so no one understands exactly what they’re getting themselves into. Said game, Gatlopp, is played by rolling a die and answering a series of questions. But watch out because if the game catches any player lying, there will be deadly consequences.
Mahoney writes this comedic horror tale with an obvious love for the genre. Gatlopp takes great pride in setting up expectations and then subverting them to either creepy or humorous effect. However, the writer also layers a healthy dose of real drama, revealed in flashbacks via the “wall of mistakes.” This helps ground what honest answers Gatlopp is looking for while also revealing the reasons the friendship between all the leads dissolved to some degree.
“…if the game catches any player lying, there will be deadly consequences.”
But what cements Paul, Cliff, Sam, and Troy’s relationship are the actors. Mahoney, Bass, Raver-Lampman, and Jackson share excellent chemistry from the moment they are all on-screen together. They feel like friends who have seen each other through thick and thin and are genuinely excited to be near one another. Mahoney proves to be the lynchpin of it all, delivering a wry performance that sells the fantastic ending perfectly.
Raver-Lampman is also great, brilliantly selling the horror and pressures she’s under. As Paul’s trashy ex, Henning is absolutely hateable, which means she is great in the role. Bass has a terrific sense of comedic timing, while Jackson does a lot of the dramatic heavy lifting and nails it.
Belli brings a lot of style to Gatlopp, especially in the strong lighting. The game manifests its magical/supernatural abilities (almost always resulting in mental or physical harm) via lighting, which sets a foreboding atmosphere with each new question. He also shows a lot of control over the tone, which is crucial, as the horror, drama, and comedy need to be balanced for the ending (which, to reiterate, is the best part of the film) to work.
Gatlopp is like Jumanji if it were a Blumhouse production. And that’s meant in the best way possible. Thanks to the stylish direction and strong cast, the film is sure to terrify and delight everyone who dares to play along.
"…like Jumanji if it were a Blumhouse production."