A wife plays a board game with her husband in which she spells out the names of men. The man, raging with jealousy, sees these names as the men with whom she’s had an affair with. With each name, the husband hunts them down for destroying the sanctity of his marriage. However, the man knows his wife all too well and understands that there’s a more sinister game afoot.
Broken Lens Production is a new production house based in Luton (England) and one of their first projects out of the gate is “Board to Death” — a neo-noir thriller about a couple who pair up murder with a board game. In the press release, “Board to Death” is labeled as a zero-budget short film. In which case, if their film was truly no-budget (which I don’t doubt), then I can see Broken Lens Production as being a company that’s going to produce great things since “Bored to Death” is quite remarkable.
“Board to Death” tells the story about a couple who are playing a dangerous game, both literally and figuratively. As the ‘Wife’ spells out the names of men using a Srabble-like board game the ‘Husband’ — a man boiling with rage — goes out and kills the men, believing they had an affair with his wife.
It’s a bit of an unusual direction for neo-noir films when you consider most films of that genre — new or old — are associated with a plot about a detective or a cop solving a crime. “Board to Death” taps into the usual beats and tropes of the genre — violent men, beautiful women (or dames, rather), said women being the catalyst for the violence, etc. — but takes the story down the path of crime and violence, rather than the one of mystery and intrigue. It’s a refreshing concept for a neo-noir piece and is well executed by increasing the tension with each man ‘The Husband’ kills and builds the suspense as you wonder what the end game is between these two.
What I thought made “Board to Death” exceptional is the actual production aspect. That’s not to sell the story, the writing, or the performances by the cast short as those elements are all well done as well. However, for a small crew and small production, “Board to Death” really shines through with its production quality. Without even thinking about the story, the movie had me hooked because it's one of those movies where there's attention in the detail and it's so well polished. It became a movie where it was enjoyable to just simply watch it, particularly because of the lighting and cinematography. The use of shadows and creative framing hides any possible budgetary short comings the movie might have had. It not only makes “Board to Death” feel bigger in scope, but it helps in giving the movie its atmosphere and tone as well.
A problem with a call back genre, like neo-noir, is that a movie can feel a bit hollow. A movie is simply replicating certain elements and tropes but never capture the core essence of what made those original genre films good. With “Board to Death”, Broken Lens not only made short film that has that essence of noir films, but also gave the movie enough of its own personality. It’s a movie that can stand next to noir classics while also demonstrating the talent of its cast and crew. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what’s next from the production company.