By BREANNA WHIPPLE
Starring Jim Mahoney, Emmy Raver-Lampman and Jon Bass
Directed by Alberto Belli
Written by Jim Mahoney
When horror meets comedy, a very peculiar thing happens. Even at a glance, it’s apparent that the two genres are complete opposites. Under most circumstances, it simply should not work, but for most horror fans, it almost always does. This yin-and-yang balance of fright and humor is the blueprint of some of the most highly regarded horror flicks of the 1980s, and for those of you that are somehow unaware, we’ve been chasing this nostalgia-fueled high more than ever in the last decade. Nevertheless, in a sea of horror comedies, GATLOPP is something pretty special.
For historians with a penchant for the morbid, the term “Gatlopp” might ring a bell. Gatlopp is a Swedish term for running the gauntlet – a form of punishment in which the guilty party was forced to run between two rows of armed soldiers who would then prod and beat them with whatever weapon they had at their disposal. While GATLOPP is by no means the first film to build on this twisted premise, it is certainly one of the funniest. Think of 1987’s The Running Man, but rather than the gauntlet being televised for blood-hungry viewers, it’s just some buddies hanging out in their living room, forced to guzzle beers and tell hard truths in exchange for their lives.
Gatlopp is a killer board game, and the characters in this flick are blissfully unaware of any harmful connotations attached to the title. I mean, why would they even suspect it? The mysterious game comes with four shot glasses, so it oughta be a good time, right?
We know there is something not right with this board game, as we witness its disastrous effects in the incredibly hilarious opening sequence: An old woman is disturbed by excessive noise from a neighboring apartment. Naturally, she goes to investigate while simultaneously contemplating a noise complaint. After exclaiming, “Party’s over you little shits!” she opens the door to find that everyone has disappeared, leaving nothing but the board game behind. Right out of the gate, GATLOPP feels tonally similar to Escape Room and Ready or Not but substantially weirder.
The group concludes that Gatlopp is not only the key to healing their friend’s heart after a messy divorce but also has the potential to repair the health of their group bond. They aren’t entirely wrong for believing this, either. However, had they read the instructions, they would’ve understood exactly what was at stake between drinks. You see, one of the players must complete the game before sunrise, or all will be forced to play for eternity. What begins as innocent, carefree fun mutates into something entirely horrific and binding.
Not dissimilar to horror comedies such as Cooties, the atmosphere of GATLOPP is predominantly lighthearted. A substantial part of the appeal of horror comedies is their innate ability to momentarily cause you to forget you’re watching a horror movie. This allows the viewer to be taken by surprise when things inevitably go south. The funnier the film is, the more upsetting the shift typically will be. Surprisingly, GATLOPP is very emotional at times. It subtly examines how fragile life is and how each decision we make can alter the course of everything. There is one particularly upsetting scene in the third act that really brings accountability for one’s actions into question.
Despite the fun jazzercise scenes and crude jokes, GATLOPP is a film about friendship through tumultuous times. It teaches us, in a very funny way, to not take things for granted. It allows for introspection; It encourages it. As the film states, none of us are good or bad – we’re just people.
GATLOPP from XYZ Films is available on digital and on-demand beginning June 16