DVD Review - Drinking Games - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DVD Review - Drinking Games

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Blake Merriman has his dorm room invaded by a sociopath in "Drinking Games" Blake Merriman has his dorm room invaded by a sociopath in "Drinking Games"

I was hoping after the tone and the three main characters were firmly introduced that this movie would turn into a college-dorm-room version of Michael Haneke's Funny Games either in earnest or in parody, but this effort, co-written by its star Blake Merriman and directed by Ryan Gielen, doesn't quite evolve to that level of cultural psychology or home invasion horror that Haneke reached so superbly.

Blake Merriman plays Richard, a college student working on a paper for an indeterminate class that's due immediately thereafter. This essentially traps him in his dorm room. His roommate, Shawn, played by Nick Vergara, and, Shawn's so-called friend Noopie, played by Rob Bradford, want to use the dorm room to party and to bring in girls for sex, as well as drugs and alcohol. Shawn wants to lose his virginity to the girl he likes and Noopie just wants to engage in debauchery. Richard is simply the responsible one who just wants quiet.

Everyone keeps referring to "Snowmageddon," which might mean this story is taking place during the February 2010 blizzard that hit the United States dumping a paralyzing amount of snow. It was a Category 3 nor'easter that was one of the worst of its kind. This is the reason that Shawn and Noopie can't take their desire to party anywhere else, so they keep pushing to take over the dorm room.

Shawn reluctantly goes along with whatever Noopie says, but Shawn is not as bad as Noopie who doesn't take long to reveal that he's essentially a sociopath. Richard and his girlfriend, Melanie, played by Riccarda Natalie, aren't on screen in large enough chunks to make the audience be as invested in their fate, but like the home invaders in Funny Games, Noopie's actions do become physically threatening, as well as emotionally so, particularly to Melanie by the end.

Gielen uses shot compositions and sound to convey a sense of dread, eeriness and perhaps pending doom. Clearly, the goal is to have this movie be some kind of suspense or maybe thriller. Noopie starts as just an annoyance but then grows into an increasingly dangerous antagonist. The problem is that he's too much of an annoyance at first and not enough of an antagonist at the end, but always completely intolerable. His presence on screen just becomes sickening or maddening till the point you don't like looking at or even hearing him.

It might have helped if Noopie were attractive or seductive in any way, but he's not. I don't doubt that Bradford perhaps thinks he is, but Noopie is disgusting and vulgar from beginning to end. He's walking aversion. He's a perfect foil to Richard and Shawn, but instead of highlighting the two non-sociopaths by sheer contrast, the character of Noopie eclipses and drowns the two out, but, then at the end he just stumbles away.

Richard and Shawn are perfect as performed. Merriman and Vergara in their facial expressions, their voices and body language make their characters very compelling to watch. The overall story structure is simply limited, too limited, and Noopie as described is too much of a black hole.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.

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