Murder Bury Win (2020) is a film with a number of predicaments at its heart. How far would you go to fulfill your dreams? What do you value more – friendship or ambition? And how deep do you have to bury a body to stop pesky critters getting at it? Set in the surprisingly cutthroat world of board game design, the film follows three friends, Chris (Mikelen Walker), Barrett (Henry Alexander Kelly) and Adam (Erich Lane), who have created “Murder Bury Win” – a game in which you play a killer, choosing your weapons and method of body disposal wisely in order to pull off the perfect murder.
Having tried and failed to raise enough on a crowdfunding platform to release the game themselves, the trio are close to giving up. Out of the blue they get a phone call from a mysterious potential investor, inviting them out to his cabin in the woods to talk terms. They go to the meeting, but it turns out the offer comes with strings attached – they have to sell the game outright for a cash sum and receive no credit for its creation. While Adam wants to take the money, Chris and Barrett don’t want to give up creative control of the game. A grisly incident puts an end to this particular argument, but sets in motion a very real round of “Murder Bury Win”…
On the horror-comedy spectrum, the film definitely tends more towards the darkly humorous end, the action becoming more farcical as the grisly situation escalates. Disposing of bodies often becomes a weirdly funny affair in horror, and Murder Bury Win has plenty of gallows humor in the vein of Shallow Grave (1994), as well as some wince-inducing moments of body horror.
One of the real joys in this film is the beautiful art design, which brings the board gaming world to life. Fictional titles like “Mummy Picnic” and “Kill Their Dreams” populate the background (check the credits for a full list). Delightfully, “Murder Bury Win” itself is in fact a playable game that was developed alongside the film, created by director Michael Lovan and art designer Amy Everson to compliment the events of the movie.
“[…] a deft, thoughtful murder-comedy, with genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some cover-your-eyes grisly parts.”
Despite the wonderfully absurdist tone (how do you kill someone with nail clippers?), Murder Bury Win touches on some real issues and anxieties, especially around working in a creative field. Chris and Adam are both wavering on the question of whether to pack in their passion project or day jobs, and the price of even fairly modest success is shown to come at the cost of a compromise of principles. As the friends find themselves deeper in potential trouble, the dynamics and difficulties of collaboration come to the fore, and resentments due to differing ambitions and moral red lines all threaten to spill over into conflict.
The main characters are all excellently played by the three lead actors. Erich Lane stays just on the right side of psychopathic as Adam, who appears to like the notion of murder a little too much. As Chris, the de facto leader of the group, Mikelen Walker gives a subtler performance, convincingly showing Chris’s moral dilemma, and demonstrating skillful comic timing in a tense scene of mistaken identity. Barrett is the most relatable, and Henry Alexander Kelly gives an immensely sympathic performance as the conflict-averse Barrett, the film’s moral centre who is constantly being dragged into situations he never signed up for.
On a minor downside, some of the scenes do feel a little drawn out at times, given the fairly straightforward plot, and it seems in these instances that the 90 minute run time is being reached for a little. Overall, Murder Bury Win is a deft, thoughtful murder-comedy, with genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some cover-your-eyes grisly parts. With Ready Or Not (2019) and now Murder Bury Win, could there perhaps be a new parlour game based horror-comedy subgenre brewing?
Michael Lovan’s Murder Bury Win celebrated its Texas Premiere at the 2020 Austin Film Festival. Let us know if you’re also planning on picking up a playable copy of the Murder Bury Win board game (and maybe how you would get away with murder) over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!