Gatlopp is a movie that, unfortunately, will be compared to Jumanji, simply because there are not many movies about board games that take over your life and pit you against certain death. However, that would be doing Gatlopp a disservice - the premise may be similar but the finished product is far more anarchic. Instead of innocent and likeable kids being transported to another world, we are presented with a group of road-weary and cynical ’adults’, who are already playing the game of life, but aren’t doing too well at it. The last thing this group needs is to play a board game that knows more about them than they do themselves. 

Paul (Jim Mahoney) is in midst of divorce and must move out of his once martial home. After chastising and insulting potential buyers of his house, he goes to stay with his old friend Cliff (Jon Bass). The pair are soon joined by Sam (Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Troy (Sarunas J Simpson), who gather to offer their condolences to Paul. Things are frosty between the old friends at first - especially Sam and Troy, whose break up some years previous is still raw. However, the gang begins to unwind when they start play a mysterious board game, Gatlopp (which is Swedish for ‘gaunlet’). Anyway, it appears that those crazy Swedes know how to make a board game, because what starts out as casual fun accompanied by snacks, beer and weed soon turns into chaos, with potentially grave consequences. 

The questions the game throws up requires the group to face previous regrets, betrayals and loss. Shut off from the outside world, the four friends must finish the game without falling foul of the challenges set or the forfeits dished out. Before they commence playing, the gang toast and say ‘here’s to those who wish us well, and all the rest can go to hell’, they have no idea how accurate that statement turns out to be.

Gatlopp mixes the warm and sentimental with the ludicrous and absurd. This black comedy features characters who must relive painful past trauma and then complete a jazzercise task together - it makes no sense, but that’s where the real fun lies. The events of the game night are cleverly interspersed with snapshots of the friends’ past, which adds another layer to the magic and delves into their mistake-ridden youth.  The board game acts as the group’s collective unconscious; it exposes them to their fears and regrets, whilst forcing them to bare their souls, or else. It’s a therapy session like no other. 

As mentioned previously, Gatlopp will lead to comparisons with Jumanji, but the domestic and claustrophobic setting combined with the characters’ life struggles means the movie has more in common with Stay Tuned. Gatlopp benefits from the small cast, minimal locations and even a short runtime (80 minutes); it is well paced and the tempo never drops. Kenny Wood’s upbeat, mischievous and dynamic score evokes shades of Danny Elfman’s Beetlejuice and Tales from the Crypt themes. It is the perfect accompaniment, and it’s use in the opening credits sets the tone for the entire movie – that a fun and spooky adventure awaits. At times the characters seem slightly mismatched and the relationships don’t appear as organic as they could be, but the acting is solid across the board.

Gatlopp is pure fun and well worth a watch. Despite the anarchic nature of the movie, the moral of the story is a wholesome one: life is like a game - sometimes you’ll roll a one and sometimes you’ll roll a six; you may have to go back to start over or you could move many spaces ahead of your peers. But, at the end of the day, it’s not about who wins and who loses, it’s about the journey you take and the fun you have along the way. Just try not to take an arrow to the leg as you go.

Movie Score: 3.5 / 5

  • James Doherty
    About the Author - James Doherty

    James is a life-long horror fan since coming across Halloween on late-night TV, when he was 9 years-old. He was too scared to watch it all the way through, so when things got too scary he changed the channel. When he worked up the courage he would switch back to Halloween. This happened several times. He has previously written for GoreZone magazine in the UK and the Evolution of Horror.