TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME (pre-cert UK video cover)

1 star   Cheese Rating: 100% King Cheese!


directed by: Nick Castle
starring: Linda Hamilton, Bruce Abbott, Robert Carradine, Kristene Debell,
Perry Lang, John Mengatti

(back of video blurb):
       "Every year on the University campus 'The Assassination Game' is played.

       Each participant is designated a victim who has to shot with a toy gun to be eliminated.

       However, this year contestants mysteriously disappear.

       When 'The Game' has finally whittled down to its last two competitors, Susan and Kersh, it is a case of 'may the best killer win'. Unknown to Susan, Kersh has an unfair advantage. He uses a real gun.

       TAG... 'may the best killer win'."

choice dialogue:

"Don't you know you shouldn't take showers when people are trying to kill you?!"

slash with panache?

       What a pedigree!...TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME is a 1982 ‘slasher’ starring a teenage Linda Hamilton as the quintessential ‘final girl’! A pre-REANIMATOR Bruce Abbott, in his film debut, as the deranged killer!...(oh, and trust me that wasn’t a spoiler)...Directed by Nick Castle, who was none-other than the ‘shape’ in John Carpenter’s seminal HALLOWEEN (1978)!...with all that going for it you could be forgiven in thinking you were in for something of a treat- I know I did. What I wasn’t expecting was a movie with zero suspense, zero mystery and the gore content of your average COLUMBO episode. How could such a dream formula produce something this banal?

       The film’s central, and lets face it only, idea isn’t half bad. A campus is the setting for an assassination game called ‘Tag’. Where students, armed with toy guns- that fire arrows with suckers at the ends of them, hunt each other downLinda Hamilton hides from an opponent in TAG... along darkened dorm corridors. The contestants are given the name and photo of their intended victim, who, when ‘killed’ will pass on to the ‘killer’ the name of the person they were hunting. So it goes on until there are only two players left. One of whom must ‘kill’ the other to become the ultimate winner. Hamilton plays Susan Swayze- a Psych Major, who is serious about winning and spends much of the first part of the movie stalking her victims and eliminating them from the game. Whilst hiding from an opponent she inadvertently finds herself in the bedroom of the school’s reporter who instantly becomes smitten with her. She leaves without hardly saying a word. And he sets out to find out who she was and why exactly she was hiding in the shadows with a toy gun. He finds out about ‘Tag’ from a friend, (although considering how many sucker tipped ‘bullets' that were flying about it is hard to believe he was unaware of its existence)- "The games’ a phenomenon sweeping the country. There’s a great story here...kids pretending to be killers- hunting each other like Chicago hitmen!". Unfortunately one of the contestants, an excellently twitchy Abbott ,who has won the contest for the last four years running, is so traumatised by being knocked out of the contest by a fluke ‘kill’ refuses to admit defeat and starts to play with a real gun. He kills contestants for real and whittles down the competition until he faces Hamilton- who is blissfully unaware of the dangerously real turn the game has taken....

       Now, that may seem like a major spoiler revealing Abbott as the killer. But I can assure you that it really isn’t. Although Castle nods to the conventions of the stalk ‘n’ slash movie- and most obviously the dorm slasher, with long shots of Linda Hamilton vents her lungs with gusto, but she can't save this turkey...darkened corridors, chase sequences through echoey halls and student high-jinx. TAG lacks any mystery what-so-ever. Abbott is revealed as the killer very early on and there is no attempt to hide his identity. Not only is the mystery angle missing, but so is any modicum of suspense. A stalk ‘n’ slash movie with guns just doesn’t seem to work. Knives, axes, harpoons, food processors- yes! Guns- lets face it, no. I mean, Abbott doesn’t even really need to catch up with his intended victims to dispose of them, just take them out with the minimum of fuss. It just doesn’t make for a sofa thumping 90 minutes. Castle also seems more interested in the romance angle between Hamilton and the reporter- when they get all lovey-dovey the soundtrack turns to mush, all sax solos and dinner lounge piano. Something which happens with depressing regularity. In fact it seems that Castle would have been happier making a romantic comedy and it just seems he used the framework of the teen slasher to achieve this.

       TAG isn’t all bad. It clearly benefits from a sizeable budget, at least compared to the likes of other dorm slashers, something which is reflected in the relatively lush cinematography. The acting is pretty good and the cast is likeable. The The discovery of the murder victims is one slasher convention TAG manages to get right. Alas, though, with little effect...opening credits are an enjoyable spoof on those for the Bond movies- all dancing silhouettes and lip glossed pouts. The last ten minutes provide a few mild generic thrills, including Hamilton discovering all the dead bodies of the unlucky contestants- a nod to HALLOWEEN albeit too little, too late. There was, however, one scene that really made me laugh, where one of the contestants hides her gun down the back of her bikini bottoms and pretends to be drowning in a swimming pool to trick an opponent into saving her. I just couldn’t stop cackling thinking about what it must have looked like with her striding around the pool edge with the gun making a noticeable bulge in the back of her bikini bottoms!... Juvenile I know, but I had to take my entertainment where I could get it with this movie!

       It is a shame, but with no intrigue, precious little suspense and PG (if that) rated gore, TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME is just a bland little time waster.

BODYCOUNT 5  bodycount!   female:4 / male:1

       1) Male teen shot dead.
       2) Female teen shot dead.
       3) Male teen shot through chest.
       4) Male shot dead.
       5) Male teen shot- falls to his death.