Paintball. What is it exactly? It boils down to individuals or teams competing against each other to see which team can eliminate the other players and/or complete one or more objectives. Each player has a paintball gun loaded with paintball ammunition (capsules containing paint or dye) used to “mark” other players.
Though this is a game, many competitors take it very seriously. There are now several professional teams around the world, each of which is sponsored monetarily or with equipment to take part in worldwide tournaments. However, most participants are amateurs, participating in their free time to blow off steam and compete with (or against) their friends and coworkers.
Paintball, directed by Daniel Benmayor (now working on the sequel to Hitman), takes a group of eight strangers out for a fun weekend of being weekend warriors and turns it into a live fire game of cat and mouse. When I heard about this movie, I was intrigued and wanted to see how Benmayor and writer Mario Schoendorff would turn this simulated combat into a horror thriller.
Honestly, I was surprised at how well it worked. It has a mix of elements from thrillers, adventure films, and horror that comes together nicely.
The players – Frank (Neil Maskell, Nil by Mouth, David (Brendan Mackey, Touching the Void), Eric (Patrick Regis, Anaconda III), Anna (Jennifer Matter, Dead Cert), Iris (Iaione Perez), Brenda (Anna Casas), John (Peter Vives Newey), and Claudia (Claudia Bassols) – start out in the back of a truck, blindfolded and taken to a remote location. They all answered the call for the “ultimate” in paintball competitors. And some of them are hardcore.
As they start after the first of several flags, the team starts to gel. Working together, they find shelter in a bus in the hail of paintballs from the opposing team. In the bus, they find a case that contains a strange piece of equipment and a bullet-proof vest. One of the team puts the vest on thinking it strange, but playing along. As they start heading to the next objective, he takes a shot to the chest. It turns out to be a real bullet. And when another teammate is shot in the head, they know something has gone horribly wrong.
The group quickly starts to panic and things continue to get worse as they move from flag to flag, hoping that if they get to all of the objectives they can go home in one piece. Of course, the sniper trying to kill them one at a time might have other plans…
I absolutely loved the international nature of the team. That’s something I find lacking in most American-made films. The group was from all over the United States and Europe. But when the stuff started hitting the fan, everybody reacted like a real person would – fighting their fight or flight response.
The other thing I found fascinating was the relative lack of blood on screen. Instead of bathing everyone in red every time a limb is hacked, a person is stabbed, or when bullets rip flesh and bone, the director chose to switch to a nightvision view from the perspective of the killer. The shades of gray make arterial spray look bright white. So the violence is still seen, but mitigated a bit.
Is this film going to win an Oscar? Probably not. Is it fun to watch as person after person gets eliminated? Definitely. And as you go through the story, you catch glimpses of the truth of what’s going on behind the scenes to try and piece things together.
In addition to the film, the DVD includes the trailer, some teasers for other IFC Films releases, and a “Making Of…” feature that focuses on Benmayor and producer Julio Fernandez talking about what their goals were with the film. They wanted a story that would appeal to the average viewer, engaging them with the trials the characters on film were going through. The work with handheld cameras and longer sequences was used to bring viewers into the action in a more real-time way. At the beginning, I have to say the “shaky cam” effect was a bit much, but it does work for the majority of the film where it’s used.
If you’re looking for an atypical thriller set during a paintball weekend, I’d definitely encourage you to check out Paintball. It was fun and has some interesting twists and turns to keep you guessing to the very end.
This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.
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