AFF Review: Murder Bury Win

Bloody board game comedy is sinister fun

Craig Cakowski, Erich Lane, Mikelen Walker, and Henry Kelly rewrite the rules of the murder-comedy in Murder Bury Win

“I’m not an advocate of people dying, but in this case, it’s okay.” The experience of watching Murder Bury Win can be summed up in this single line spoken by aspiring board game designer and accidental criminal Chris (Mikelen Walker).

In this murder-comedy, he's one of three best friends (Walker, Erich Lane as Adam, and Henry Kelly as Barret) attempting to get their niche board game, also titled Murder, Bury, Win, off the ground. The game is about getting away with killing someone but they unexpectedly find themselves in a real-life murder plot of their own. Director Michael Lovan’s debut feature film (streaming in the Comedy Vanguard section of this year’s Austin Film Festival) nestles comfortably between the grey areas of dark humor and outlandish violence.

The world of Murder Bury Win feels not quite like our own - a universe where a man notices and traces his fingers across the outline of a smiley face on a cheese grater before using the kitchen utensil to shave off the fingerprints on a dead man’s hands. Where a police officer is deterred from investigating a ‘Murder Wall’ filled with dozens of lethal weapons through explanation of it being research for a board game. Where an employee eager to hide his identity quits his job by sending an email littered with expletives, because the benefits are better from getting fired. Where the smoke from a handful of papers can be detected across acres of forested property, and blood runs neon-red and abundant. While the over-the-top performances and plot-points may start out off-putting, as the film’s complicated tone becomes clearer, the nefarious undertones of the characters’ initially innocent personas are revealed.

Erich Lane in particular gives an enthralling performance, as Adam, a genuine board-game-aficionado turned bloodlusting entrepreneur. His upbeat attitude and constant smile lends a chilling tone to scenes of him wielding machetes and bashing in body parts. Murder Bury Win treats gore in a way that is uniquely explicit but never gratuitous, relying on off-center shots that reveal its characters’ reactions and facial expressions leading up to violence, but never the horrific event itself. Standout performances from the film also include Brian Slaten as Officer Dan, a police officer with a peculiarly emotionally touching, board-game-based relationship with his son, and Craig Cackowski as capitalistic murder-obsessed board game mogul, V.V. Stubbs.

In all, Murder Bury Win is not only a curiously humorous representation of the niche world of indie board-game-creation, but a unique contribution to the sub-genre of films exploring what leads ordinary people to commit horrific acts of violence, when placed in the right extenuating circumstances.

Murder Bury Win

Comedy Vanguard, Texas Premiere
Screening links available until Oct. 29 at

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