There are not only a bunch of board games out there that could make incredible movies, there are board games that could make incredible horror movies. These are frightening, tense experiences that lend themselves to cinematic interpretation, even more than something like a Ouija board.
Hey Hollywood, if you’re going to start making horror movies based on board games, why don’t you look at these?
The Game: Up to eight players team up to explore H.P. Lovecraft’s infamous city of Arkham, Massachusetts, which has been overrun with monsters and evil magic. The body count is high on both sides, as players play against the game itself through an ingenious system that actually makes it feel like the cardboard tokens and cards are reacting to your every movement. This is the kind of game you play with sweaty, nerve-wracked desperation.
The Movie Pitch: It’s simple enough — cast a bunch of movie stars, put them in fancy 1920s outfits and let them run around an accurately re-created rural New England shooting Shoggoths with shotguns. Put a mad genius who loves monsters (paging Guillermo del Toro!) in the director’s seat and watch icky, but oddly prestigious, magic happen.
Level 7: Escape/Level 7: Omega Protocol
The Game: In Level 7: Escape, players take on the role of test subjects attempting to flee an underground government facility filled with alien mutants and rogue guards. In the sequel Level 7: Omega Protocol, players play as the elite commando team sent in to retake the facility from the alien hordes. Both games are action packed, violent and require intense coordination and dramatic sacrifice to beat.
The Movie Pitch: If you’re adapting the first game, look to Alien and make a dark, haunted-house movie with aliens instead of ghosts. If you’re adapting the second, look to Aliens and make a slick, bloody action flick that sees expert military tactics being tested against extraterrestrial foes. Or combine them into one movie and make one seriously epic horror/science fiction/action film.
Dead of Winter
The Game: It’s the zombie apocalypse and winter has arrived. Yes, there are hordes of zombies to deal with, but they’re secondary to running out of food, battling frostbite and dealing with the other, more violent survivors wandering around outside of your camp. Players must work together to survive and complete their objectives, but there’s a chance that a traitor is among them, undermining every action and sowing distrust.
The Movie Pitch: With The Walking Dead still breaking viewership records, this should be an easy sell to any studio. It’s a zombie movie with all of the standard tropes, but in a completely fresh setting. People have seen an awful lot of movies about the undead terrorizing the hot South. Take the action to a place straight out of the Coen brothers’ Fargo and watch new life get injected into the genre.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
The Game: Everyone takes on the role of a paranormal investigator, exploring a spooky haunted house that is randomly generated from a pile of room tiles. For the first half of the game, everyone is on the same team, but then a traitor emerges and one player is given new marching orders, which usually involves killing everyone else. A massive book of scenarios keeps the game fresh. Sometimes, the traitor is an insane slasher. Sometimes, he’s an evil wizard. Heck, he could even be the minion of an alien hive mind.
The Movie Pitch: Betrayal at House on the Hill intentionally plays up a whole bunch of standard haunted-house cliches, treating the genre with a kitchen-sink approach that’s charming, campy and hilarious. A potential movie should follow suit, embracing every trope of the genre while simultaneously sending them up. This could be fertile ground for a mad genius like Edgar Wright to make a tribute to ’50s B horror.
Fury of Dracula
The Game: One player takes on the role of the legendary Count Dracula, who is secretly journeying around Europe attempting to build an army of vampires. Four other players control vampire hunters, who want to kill him. A game of deduction and determination, Fury of Dracula perfectly creates the stressful feeling of being hunted. The Dracula player will sweat bullets as he makes his movements in secret, becoming increasingly desperate as the other players uncover his trail. The hunter players, despite being the humans, will know what it’s like to pursue prey.
The Movie Pitch: The rules manual for Fury of Dracula presents all you need to know. This game is a “sequel” to Bram Stoker’s original novel, taking the surviving characters and putting them on another crash course with the world’s most famous vampire. But this time, it’s the humans doing the hunting. If you can’t make that work as a movie then it’s time to find some new screenwriters.
Letters from Whitechapel
The Game: Structurally similar to Fury of Dracula (albeit significantly shorter), Letters from Whitechapel puts one player in control of Jack the Ripper and the rest of the players in control of London police officers. The Jack player must stalk his victims, commit his murders and hurry back home while the cop players struggle to ascertain his location. Deduction, logical reasoning and lots and lots of swearing occur.
The Movie Pitch: There has yet to be a truly definitive film about the Jack the Ripper killings and this board game (of all things) could provide the inspiration for one. There’s not a lot of storytelling going on (and historical accuracy is not necessarily a priority to the game designers), but the tone of the game is, well, just plain terrifying. The Jack player can’t help but enjoy his evil deeds and the police players will quickly grow to hate their serial killer nemesis. It’s a dynamic that can’t help but recall films like David Fincher’s Zodiac… Hey! Why not get David Fincher to make a movie called Letters from Whitechapel? There you go. Best movie of whatever year it’s released.
A Touch of Evil
The Game: Evil has come to a small village in early 19th century America and you and your fellow gamers play the travelers who find themselves tasked with defending the innocent from werewolves, vampires, ghosts and headless horsemen. Players can work solo (trying to beat everyone else to the boss monster and save the day alone) or they can work cooperatively, which makes the game significantly harder. In either format, the game requires exploration, planning and a lot of luck to win.
The Movie Pitch: What if Sleepy Hollow were an ensemble piece? There you go. Make that and watch the money roll in.
The Game: Players must defend a small Chinese village from an army of ghosts and demons and, despite the theme oozing out of every card and piece, it’s all a very intricate and challenging puzzle that will push your brain to the breaking point. And it’s hard. Yes, the difficulty of Ghost Stories is legendary among tabletop gamers, but its amazing art, approachable rules and incredible theme make it an easy one to pull off the shelf… especially in October, where the game feels especially appropriate.
The Movie Pitch: This is a game where the players control badass monks who battle the forces of Hell. Do you need to know more? Take a martial arts movie and toss in a whole bunch of slimy, horrifying monsters and you’ll whip the geeks into a frenzy. No one with good taste will say no to a movie where monks punch ghosts in the face for 90 minutes.
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