When I saw my bud James Azrael at the Chicago Pop Culture Con, he was promoting the HSPPA (Horror & SciFi Prop Preservation Association). The non-profit organization brings iconic screen-used props to public settings for fans to see up close in an effort to preserve filmic history for generations to come. Along those lines, there was some pretty cool stuff to see at the HSPPA booth.
James was also there to talk about "It's Just A Game," a movie he co-produced. We talked about the HSPPA, "It's Just A Game" and more in our interview at On the Beat With James Azrael at Chicago Pop Culture Con.
James described "It's Just A Game" as a paranormal horror thriller. Various promo pieces advertised it as "a twisted tale of teenage bullying, jealousy, angst, and a bizarre theatre cult intent on summoning the spirit of an ancient witch." The premise sounded like a typical thriller, but it appealed to me and I wanted to see where it went.
James was very passionate about it and I always like to support the talented folks I have met at pop cons. James is very talented and I was curious to see his latest creative endeavor.
James graciously invited me to a special screening, but I was unable to attend. He followed that by offering me a private link to a screener copy online. Of course, I eagerly accepted that and looked forward to watching the movie.
As much as I like seeing the creations of my talented friends, I also am a bit leery about actually reviewing them. What if I don't like the product? I can't lie in my writing, but I also wouldn't want to disparage my friends or their work. It could get sticky.
Fortunately, my fears quickly faded within minutes as I started watching "It's Just A Game." In fact, I messaged James and jokingly said I was annoyed because I intended on watching only a few minutes to get the basic feel, but I was sucked in and watched about half of it. Furthermore, I knew I had to set aside enough time to watch the rest in one sitting, because I knew I wouldn't want to leave it again.
I wrote a full review at Johngy's Beat Reviews "It's Just A Game" on Patch.com. Spoiler alert...I really enjoyed it!
The movie starts as 4 teenage girls are telling spooky tales. Things start to go awry when dissension arises within the group. Things go really badly when a cult is introduced into the movie. What is the connection? What happens to the girls? How does everyone respond? Is it all "just a game?"
Those questions are all answered very clearly and the suspense stays strong right through the end. As I watched the movie, my mind raced through ending scenarios. For the record, none of my thoughts were correct and I am happy about that. The ending was a surprise, but logical, too.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was the simplicity. It didn't try to be a blockbuster, over-the-top horror movie. In my review, I wrote that it employed the "less is more" theory. Subtlety is a beautiful thing if done right. It's actually even more sinister if done perfectly.
"It's Just A Game" contained some sex scenes which were actually sexy because they weren't gratuitous or extended. Some slasher scenes were done in the same minimal way. These scenes evoked more reactions than had they been over-produced moments.
The young actors did an outstanding job. Th character development was well-done and the actors did well with the progressions.
My bud James even had a small part in the movie. As cult member Brother Julius, James was more than "the big guy with a beard," as he described his role. While he wasn't a main character, he wasn't simply filler either.
"It's Just A Game" is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. I see it as a future cult classic. I can see the young actors going on to have excellent careers and I also see them having a reunion at a future horror con. I will be there if that happens, of course. Until then, I encourage everyone to check out "It's Just A Game."
Thank you to James for this opportunity. Great job all around, pal!
You can watch the "It's A Game" trailer on YouTube. You can also follow "It's Just A Game" on Facebook for more info and updates.
James Azrael and me in St. Charles, IL-November 2018.
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