It’s nice to see Italian horror returning to the film festival circuit, even in short form. London-based Italian film director Michele Olivieri’s latest film, The Game of the Clock—which was a FrightFest 2019 entry—may be low budget, but audiences may find it a riveting experience.
The premise is fairly simple. Simone Mumford plays a young woman (more on this later) who comes by her friend Susan’s apartment for a movie night. But Susan doesn’t answer. Upon opening the door, an alarm clock begins to ring. Turning the alarm off, she explores the apartment for signs of her friend, only to discover that she has instigated a deadly game.
A note on the wall welcomes her to the “Game of the Clocks” and asks whether she can endure for five minutes. Shortly after she experiences weird things—including finding severed eyeballs—and is soon stalked by an unseen entity that another note advises her not to look at.
While the cinematography isn’t particularly inspired, the editing work creates an air of unease and constantly keeps the film’s protagonist and the viewer disoriented. The script also includes a smart twist. The final moments even appear to hommage a scene in Dario Argento’s Inferno where a character is grabbed around the face from behind by an unseen assailant.
But to return to our main character. While her absent friend is given the name of Susan, Mumford’s character is only listed as “The Victim” in the end credits. While that listing may be matter-of-fact for the character given her role in the narrative, the choice seems rather reductive. IMDb apparently lists Mumford’s character’s name as “Alice,” which perhaps assuages the issue, but even then there’s no excuse for her not to have a name. In theory, viewers could possibly connect more with“The Victim/Alice” on an emotional level if her name was given. For example, when she calls Susan and gets no answer, a short voicemail message of “Hey, this is [insert name here], where are you? Open the door,” could have sufficed. For that, I’m docking my overall score a couple points.
Aside from that, The Game of the Clock remains a relatively suspenseful experience that delivers with a killer ending.
Sean Woodard serves as the Film Editor for Drunk Monkeys and a Co-Producer of the faith and spirituality podcast, Ordinary Grace. Focusing on a wide variety of interests, Sean’s fiction, film criticism, and other writings have been featured in Los Angeles Review of Books, NonBinary Review, Horrorbuzz, Cultured Vultures, and Los Angeles Magazine, among other publications. He is currently a doctoral student at University of Texas at Arlington.