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Review: Michael Su’s DEATH COUNT

What do you get if you mix Saw with Truth or Dare with Escape Room? Well, you get director Michael Su and writer Michael Merino’s Death Count, a new horror-thriller releasing courtesy of Gravitas Ventures on July 19th 2022. From the moment I watched the trailer, I knew this one was going to be a hit – and now having seen it in full, it certainly did not disappoint! From Mezek Films, Bootleg Films and Mahal Empire, Death Count finds eight strangers who awaken in individual holding cells, void of any memory of how they got there and without any means to escape. Soon, an executioner appears on camera or by loudspeaker and encourages each captive to perform a painful and cringeworthy dare. Failure to complete a dare or not securing enough online “likes” results in disqualification. Aka… death! Big, explosive, agonizing death! Let the game begin!

The reason I was so intrigued by the concept of Death Count is because it mirrors the true horror of society and the sick pleasure people get from watching each other suffer. I can remember a few years ago when two teenagers tortured another kid on Instagram Live just for “likes.” And, probably even more disturbing, is the fact that shit like this probably occurs on the dark web on a daily basis. A clever tie-in to the movie, perhaps. Anything that can happen in real life is much scarier than a big guy stalking around the woods with a machete. Death Count absolutely taps into fear, fear of the unknown and fear of the gruesomely surprising. The claustrophobia, the isolation, the absolutely sense of hopelessness, Death Count brings all of these themes to life in an incredibly brutal way. It’s a true torture porn thriller that’s far from tacky.

Costas Mandylor, Michael Madsen, Robert Lasardo, Sarah French, Devanny Pinn, BJ Mezek, Wesley Cannon and Denny Nolan star in this feature film from the executive production team of Michael Mahal, Sonny Mahal, Jamal Alsager and BJ Mezek. Special effects were performed by Nightmare Nevada and post-production editing was performed by Jeremy Wanek. From a production standpoint, I have no qualms with Death Count except that the lighting was too harsh at times, especially when no one was by a fixture or window. Other than that, I really have nothing bad to say because this cast and crew brought to life a devilishly delightful thriller with the use of a few rooms, a few great actors and a production team that brought their A-game to the table. And any other criticisms could be overlooked thanks to Nightmare Nevada’s incredible special effects work. They’ll certainly have you laughing with joy, which only a true horror fan will understand.

From the jump, Death Count will grab you by the balls (or ovaries!) and squeeze until the credits roll. It’s a balls-to-the-wall thriller that throws you into the deep end without a life-vest. It has an ending that I did not expect, and a lot of twists and turns along the way. Michael Su and Michael Merino should be incredibly proud of this picture because it sets out to be the Death Race of captivity films and wholeheartedly succeeds. It also gives reigning scream queens Sarah French and Devanny Pinn another opportunity to shine at what they do best. When they ultimately go on to become icons of the genre, THIS is going to be one of their films that are championed by the fans. Be careful of your surroundings because by the time you wake up, you may be in the next round of Death Count!

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)

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