One little, two little, eight little prisoners, forced to play a death game these prisoners. Michael Su unleashes a very insane game that meshes the likes of classics Saw and Battle Royale with some major twists in the story.
Rachel Phillips is a teacher who has woken up wearing a prison uniform, chained, and inside of a cell. She has no idea what has happened. However, she’s not the only one as she recognizes some fellow prisoners. She recognizes other teachers from her school but not a few others. They include fellow educators Principal Bruno, Selena Marshall, and Coach Roberts among the others. They soon meet the one responsible for bringing them together, a mysterious masked man known as The Warden.
The Warden informs the eight that they have been chosen because they have done wrong, and he’s been hired to bring them justice. He warns them that if they try anything, there is an explosive device on the back of their necks. When a few of the prisoners refuse and do not believe them, they are met with their fates. To make matter worse, all of this is being streamed on the internet. It is up to Detectives Casey and Tanner to track down the location of the Warden and his house of horrors as he forces the prisoners to torture themselves and learn of their connection. For Rachel, it’s the ultimate fight for survival.
Directed by Michael Su, this horror film is heavily inspired by the likes of Saw and Battle Royale without the fact our prisoners do not have to kill each other. Instead, they are forced to torture themselves for the pleasure of the Warden, played by the excellent Costas Mandylor. Decked out in a robe and sporting a metal mask reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera, The Warden takes pleasure in seeing the prisoners have penance while streaming it all online for everyone to see. And this is seen as we get viewer reactions as the end credits run.
The cast of prisoners are great, especially Sarah French, who carries the film as Rachel, aka #3. Despite the fact she is forced to torture herself, she soon realizes the connection, but it soon isn’t enough. In the second half, things just go insane not just for Rachel but for the others involved as well. Meanwhile, we have Michael Madsen playing one of the detectives hellbent on finding the Warden and ending the chaos. Robert LaSardo, a legend in 1990s indie cinema as a villain, gets limited screen time as within the first ten minutes there are two victims and he’s one of them.
Which brings us to the death and torture scenes, which make up the eponymous “death count”. They are definitely not for the squeamish. We have a Scanners-esque head explosion, one prisoner killed by an acidic gas, dismemberments, and more for the gorehounds. Those who love the crimson will be pleasantly pleased and in two instances, those looking for an exploitative feel will get a few glimpses in terms of two female prisoners.
Death Count is a great film where we have 2 deaths right away within the first ten minutes, a stellar lead performance from Sarah French, an excellent villain in Costas Mandylor’s Phantom-inspired Warden, and a story that takes some shocking twists and turns meshed in with plenty of gore for the genre fans.
WFG RATING: A-
A Mahal Empire production in association with Blaen-Y-Mas Bootleg Films and Mezek Films. Director: Michael Su. Producers: Michael Mahal and Sonny Mahal. Writer: Michael Merino. Cinematography: Michael Su. Editing: Jeremy Wanek.
Cast: Costas Mandylor, Sarah French, Michael Madsen, Robert LaSardo, BJ Mezek, Devanny Pinn, Wesley Cannon, Denny Nolan, Dave Shecter, Kimberly Lynn Cole, Dee Cutrone.