A Journal Of The Dark Arts

31 Days Of Horror: The 100 Candles Game Telluride Horrorshow Review

The 100 Candles Game is a portmenteau horror seeped in menace and gothic ambiance. It’s pure class, eerier, more unsettling, and higher production values than many more mainstream affairs. 

Indie horror also carries connotations of crudeness – of shaky handheld cameras and poor acting, and questionable writing. So does the phrase directorial debut. Both are often used as a caveat, almost an excuse. “It’s pretty good – for an indie horror.” It can come off as a bit condescending, overlooking that many of these things aren’t a dealbreaker for horror fans. High fidelity, Oscar-worthy performances, and Pulitzer-winning writing do not a good horror film make. It also overlooks what indie horror and new directors bring to the genre – new stories, new voices, fresh imagination, and new perspectives. Indie horror, new directors and talent are the lifeblood of this genre, necessary to keep Horror vital, chilling, and terrifying.  

Imagine, then, what’s possible, when you combine indie horror and new creative talent with Hollywood-worthy production values. 

Imagine, then, what’s possible, when you combine indie horror and new creative talent with Hollywood-worthy production values. 

The 100 Candles Game is a portmenteau/anthology horror movie from a slew of new directors. It’s premise is as simple as the children’s game it uses as a framework. It’s based on a Japanese parlour game, Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, or “a gathering of 100 supernatural tales, which was popular during the Edo period. In The 100 Candles Game, a group of friends gather in a circle of candlelight to tell spooky stories they’ve heard or encountered. When they finish, they go into the bathroom, stare into a dark mirror, and blow out their candle. No one’s allowed to leave the game until it’s finished. 

The short clips, almost vignettes, that comprise The 100 Candles Game use classic horror tropes and aesthetics to weave a pitch-black tapestry, seeped in gothic menace and dread. Creepy kids abound, as do spooky dolls. There’s a possession and exorcism story and a story about someone being buried alive. A time-honored witch story is turned on its head. Some are given modern twists while others are period pieces, seeming like classic horror folktales being brought to life. 

As the stories unfold, and the candles are blown out one by one, a metanarrative begins to emerge and we learn why this group of friends has been summoned for this eerie entertainment. 

The 100 Candes Game Credit: Black Mandala

The 100 Candles Game Movie Review

The 100 Candles Game is pure class. It’s almost startling that this is the directorial debut of nearly everybody involved. Everything is perfect, from the stunningly crisp cinematography to truly exceptional sound design and soundtrack work.

Given the nature of the portmanteau format, there’s an impressively wide array of styles and moods on display, as well, meaning there’s something for very nearly every horror lover.

Bonus points to Black Mandala Productions for finding the fine balance between the modern and the timeless. Case in point, the use of overhead shots. I know some horror fans are getting burned out on drone cameras, as they’ve become nearly ubiquitous, sometimes inadvertently giving a film a “cheap” feel – ironic, given the traditional difficulty of crane and helicopter shots. The 100 Candles Game does give us some bird’s eye views, but they’re used sparingly and atmospherically, mostly to give us the spectral image of the friends sitting in a circle of candlelight that’s used for the poster.

The only potential downsides are the somewhat flat characterizations of the characters in the framing device and the somewhat inconclusive nature of some of the shorts. The characters don’t really need much of a backstory or a personality, though. They’re just that – a device, like some archetypes from a campfire ghost story, which is what The 100 Candles Game mostly is.

The open-endedness of some of the installments isn’t a problem, for this reviewer at least. I actually like the short format for horror media for just this reason. Short horror stories are able to be open-ended, subjective, strange, and surreal, creeping under yr skin and sticking in yr mind for days, like a haunting melody. And when what you’re looking at is this beautiful, the spell is certainly left unbroken.

The 100 Candles Game is one of the best indie horror and directorial debuts i’ve seen in a minute. It’s also just one of the best horror movies, period. I CANNOT WAIT to see what else Black Mandala Productions has in store!

The 100 Candles Game is available as part of the Telluride Horrorshow, a virtual horror film festival beginning today and going until the end of the weekend! There’s a ridiculous wealth of inventive indie horror on display and i know i, for one, won’t be getting much sleep this weekend, watching as many horror movies as possible and returning to you, dear readers, to report on my findings!

Black Mandala Productions

Black Mandala Productions FB

Telluride Horrorshow


ig: @telluridehorrorshow

Telluride Horrorshow FB

Telluride Horrorshow YouTube

Telluride Horrorshow Vimeo

Welcome to 31 Days Of Horror! Each day this month, i’ll be reviewing and recommending horror movies, in addition to other media, art, and culture relating to the Horror genre. Make sure to check back as this site’s about to run red with more delicious horror madness than you could shake a stake at.

We’ve got a pretty stacked queue already, but am always open to suggestions, recommendations, and just knowing what y’all would like to see on this site. And what are y’all watching, reading, and listening to, this Season of the Witch?

Also, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Letterboxd, for even more horror aesthetics and inspiration. Every day is Halloween here in the Forestpunk turret, so we’re looking forward to unleashing our plague of madness and wonders on the world. Happy October!

Looking For More Horror News And Reviews?

Follow @for3stpunk on Twitter and Instagram, Letterboxd, Trakt TV, Goodreads, and Pinterest, and drop by the Facebook page!

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