In one of the most terrifying opening sequences we see an unnamed girl being brutally murdered . We know she is being watched and the uneasy feeling takes us completely in its grip. As the frenzied camera work reveals her beheaded body being set on fire by the mysterious killer, we already are at the edge of our seats .
Game Over doesn’t waste time in backstories or setting the premise. While we are just about reeling under the grotesqueness of the first scene, next we meet a video game designer Swapna (Taapsee Pannu). A stay-at-home professional, the air of disquiet around her is enough to suggest the viewer needs to brace for impact again! The details bleed out gradually. Why does she want to stay home all the time? Why is she scared of the dark? One really bad panic attack ends up with her therapy session. The one hand-holding her through all this is her caretaker and sole companion Kalamma. (Vinodini Vaidyanathan)
The most interesting bit about Game Over is our complete inability to stack it in any one particular genre . Director Ashwin Saravanan who has also co-written the film with Kavya Ramkumar conjure up at the outset, what might look to some as a ‘whodunnit murder mystery.’
The narrative shifts a little and enters darker territory. The traumatic past that Sapna is reeling under is revealed as does her connection to the girl we see being killed in the first scene.
A psychological thriller with its taut editing and brilliant camera work by A Vasanth, the film has the feel of a supernatural thriller. Is what is happening for real...? Or is it a psychosomatic response by Sapna to rationalise her fears? The film doesn’t provide definite answers and this second guessing on our part as we alternate between being surprised to being utterly spooked is one of the major thrills of Game Over !
The film is a Telugu -Tamil bilingual with a Hindi dubbed version. Now while everything else seems on point, it’s the dubbing which at times pulls the film down.
Flat and at places, complete out of sync, it makes one wonder if the original with English subtitles would have been a better bet!
The film of course has benefited the most with Taapsee Pannu taking charge as the protagonist. She is as well known in the South as she is to all those bred on a regular Bollywood diet, thus adding to the film’s pan-India reach.
Taapsee Pannu’s filmography so far will reveal how her biggest strength is her conviction in doing roles that conventional Bollywood wisdom will completely frown upon. From playing Meenal in Pink to the upright Aarti in Mulk. A headstrong Rumi we saw in Manmarziyan to the devious Naina in Badla, she has been phenomenal in her choices.
Here in the role of Sapna, a young woman trying to get a grip on her life even as her traumatic past keeps throwing her off balance, she is unhinged and unencumbered in her performance. Showing her strengths and vulnerabilities with equal ease, there is just so much to admire in Taapsee – on and off the screen.
Her relationship with her caretaker Kalamma, brilliantly portrayed by Vinodhini Vaidyanathan, whom she keeps close even while distancing herself from her parents, is a beautiful bond that gives this otherwise cold film its warm tender moments.
The idea to play out the narrative like it’s a video game with ‘lives gained’ and ‘lives lost’ is a novel one. It’s literally a level up each time our protagonist is up against the “rivals” she must defeat in order to win the game.
While at times, the lethargic dubbing and a key sequence being replayed seem like an overkill, the heady concoction of jump-scare moments, suspense and slow burning fear make for a compelling watch. Like a good video game, this is addictive and at a couple of points in the movie, I’ll admit I forced my eyes shut because it’s damn scary!
3.5 Quints out of 5!