If you’ve read The Hunger Games novels, you’re likely excited about the big screen adaptation hitting theatres this Friday. The story of a dystopian world where children killing children is a national pastime — think American Idol, only with knives — was a mega-hit in book stores and promises to pack theatres.
But if the movie lineups are enough to keep you away from the theatre on Saturday night, here are some similar themed movies to get you in the mood.
Battle Royale is the ultra-violent Japanese cousin to The Hunger Games.
The movie is a futuristic nightmare about a group of kids who are shipped off to a remote island and forced to wage war against one another until only one remains.
The film’s bloody conflict enraged the Japanese censors who tried to ban the movie, but their plan backfired. Slapping a tough R15 rating on the film only increased people’s desire to see it. “Because it was forbidden,” says director Kinji Fukasaku, “they wanted to watch it even more.”
Also breathing the same air is Series 7: The Contenders, a parody of reality television where contestants hunt down and murder one another. This gory satire won a passing grade from Roger Ebert who said, “It’s not the idea that people will kill each other for entertainment that makes Series 7 jolting. What the movie correctly perceives is that somewhere along the line we’ve lost all sense of shame in our society.”
The idea of televising human blood sports isn’t new to the reality TV era, however. Years before Survivor made the phrase, “You’ve been voted off the island” a household term, Steven King and Arnold Schwarzenegger unleashed The Running Man on audiences.
Arnold plays a wrongly convicted man fighting for his survival on a TV game show, overseen by Family Feud host Richard Dawson.
“I’ll be back!” Arnold says, mimicking his Terminator catchphrase. “Only in a rerun,” says Dawson, who hopes Arnold bites it and gives the show a spike in ratings.
Finally, director Norman Jewison imagined a theme similar to The Hunger Games in his 1975 film Rollerball.
Set in 2018, it’s about a deadly sport that combines roller derby, hockey, football and a generous helping of violence.
The movie’s style seems a bit dated but the ideas aren’t. Jewisons’ prophetic take on violence, the influence of corporations and the state of entertainment are bang on.
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