If you can be sure of one thing in the world of movies, it's to never ever sign up for a team-building exercise that promises 'ultra-realism'. This will nearly always involves travelling to some remote village or far-off forest and being hunted by a bunch of rich psycho's in ski-masks who carry high-powered weaponry. Ice T did it in _Surviving the Game_, loads of pretty American teenagers did it in _Hostel_ (and the even more risible _Hostel 2_) and Liam Neeson rescued his daughter from it in _Taken_. Let's face it, if you're a bored billionaire, what's the first thing you're going to do? Hunt people, that's what. Don't laugh, I've heard Branson's interested.
So it is with Paintball. After falling for the worst advertising campaign ever, fronted by the dodgiest bloke this side of a Middle Eastern dictator, a bunch of Euro-teens head to the forest to do some battle with pretend guns and balls of Dulux. What they don't know is they're being set up and it's not long before those pellets of paint are being swapped for real bullets where they are picked off one by one for the sadistic amusement of person or persons unknown.
It's not a particularly original story it has to be said. The films mentioned above are just ones of the top of my head. I can also think of _Southern Comfort_ (1981) and even the amazing _Deliverance_ (1973?) that follow similar lines. I'm sure there are others so I suppose the question is whether Paintball brings anything new to the party.
Shot for the majority on a hand-held camera, the viewer is virtually invited to take part in these 'war-games' along with the rest of the crew and while this provides a gritty feel to the film, for some, this could be very off-putting. It's like a cross between Cloverfield, Deliverance and erm, Saw (except there are no huge alien monsters, banjo-playing slack-jawed yokels or frightening clown dolls). The camera operator is never acknowledged by actors and this ignorance makes it appear forced. If it had been another player in the 'game', such as the camera operator in Cloverfield, it would have added an extra dose of realism.
There have obviously been budget limitations imposed on director Daniel Benmayor's first feature but fair play to him for making a fist of what he had to play with. Not least, the cast of relative unknowns he's been given to knock off in imaginative ways. The only one I could vaguely recognise was Brendan Mackay, a bit-part stalwart of the small screen here in Blighty. The other token Brit, Neil Maskell who's actually been in 'proper' films, was given one of the most annoying parts I've seen in any film ever, and that includes Grease 2. We actually cheered when he was bumped off (oh come on, it's hardly a revelation is it?). The characters all get a bit too hysterical for my liking. Whenever I've been hunted by homicidal killers, and that happens more than I care for, I've always been as calm as a monk in a brothel.
The plot offers very few surprises save for a couple of unexpected twists but even these are revealed far too early in the story. "Oh, so *that's* what it's all about?" was the thought going through our heads. Once the reveal had been, ahem, revealed, the rest of the film was simply a guessing game of who was going next and in what particularly gruesome fashion. Really, that and a gruesome fascination into the next method of dispatch were the only things piquing our interest. Even then, the killers seemed to get bored of boffing the 'ballers and imagination ran out long before the end of the film.
The gore was kept to a minimum and most, if not all, of the squirmy squishy bits are filmed from the viewpoint of the killer who happens to be wearing night-vision goggles. This means the blood is in black and white and probably a reason for its 15 rating as opposed to an 18. It guarantees a bigger audience but ends up putting the film into a sort of halfway house between Predator-style thriller and Saw-like horror. Neither work entirely well and I feel a whole-hearted attempt at one or the other would have produced a more convincing result. It's fair to say, the night-vision goggles gimmick was over-worked.
I don't mind suspending belief when watching films but surely the protagonists knew what they were getting into? They were driven to the forest while masked and chained to the floor of a lorry. Oh come on, evil Herod's chapstick, the last time I went paintballing, we were given free bacon sandwiches. There was none of that, no pies, chocolate bars or anything and alarm bells would have been ringing louder than a nun finding out how much the washing machine vibrates. But no, they took it as 'normal' and just thought it was a laugh. No food? Yeah, a right laugh that. Saying all that, I can't help feeling they got their just desserts (ooh, dessert) by falling for that ridiculously stupid TV advert.
It's not a truly awful film and at least we watched all the way through. It wasn't scary nor particularly thrilling but fun in a perverse, voyeuristic way. If watching, combine it with a party drinking game to see who's getting killed next and who will survive. Don't neck your vodka shots every time one of them screams in an unconvincing manner though, you'll end up in casualty.
You'll like this if ... you're mad on paint-balling.
You won't like this if ... you're mad on ball-painting.