Hailing from a dead-end suburban neighborhood in Northern Illinois, a group of friends have taken to idolizing the show Jackass and are eager to make their own version; calling it “Flesh Games.” Centered around friends Jordan Acosta and Mike Miller (both character names and actors), alongside others, the duo spend their days orchestrating all sorts of nasty pranks and stunts ranging from “Twister” with glass on the circles to a bat attached to a fan making them around. However, Mike feels the group is not going far enough to make a name for themselves, and he begins to divide even more ghastly stunts for him and his friends.

** This Review Contains Spoilers**

Teens of a certain era grew up idolizing TV stupidity, with almost any gathering of men at one point conceptualizing or even doing mundane stunts in an attempt to capture a modicum of ‘glory’ that was Jackass. This becomes the starting point of David M. Dawson’s Flesh Games, with the group of bored suburbanites mimicking the show. This element is done so perfectly that one begins to believe the narrative that this was a real group of friends who produced videos, with their exploits having only recently been unearthed.


Skit from Flesh Game

This comes with both positives and negatives; on the one hand, the antics border on unwatchable as the simplistic stunt show plays out largely in a small backyard, with whatever can be found nearby being the tools of torture. It is as asinine and budgetary as one would expect from a home-spun Jackass. Combine this with the edgy personality of Mike and Jordan, and the duo becomes as insufferable as friends best left behind from days of youthful stupidity.

However, the trade-off is an utterly authentic immersion into a time and place where homegrown TV was captured by home video equipment, with men playing out their fantasies by mimicking cultural trends. This ensures that even punching of testicles through glass to the screams of its participants will make the audience squirm.


Painting with Poop in Flesh Games

The ‘twist’ in Flesh Games pops up in the closing 10 minutes (roughly), with the illusion of it being a stunt show breaking down in a glorious piece of cinematic chaos. The turning moment comes from the ‘human dart board’ skit. Here, Mike pushes Jordan to throw darts at his stomach before manically laughing as he plays with the darts, thrusting them in and out of his body as the blood flows while he laughs maniacally; then things escalate from there. This scene works well due to another more nuanced strength worth mentioning, with the divide between Mike and Jordan becoming more evident up to this point: one withdraws, and the other wants more.

Further helping the immersion into the 90s spun stupidity is a wonderfully direct take on the home stunt video. The aesthetic is perfectly captured through clothing, personas that unabashedly reveled in pain to pay homage to Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera, and a grind/thrash-inspired score. Mike and Jordan also embrace the full douchebaggery of their characters, feeling both authentic to the era and contesting the bounds of friendship through ever-escalating acts of self-mutilation in the name of stardom.

Flesh Games taps into a time and culture with cool/cruel clarity,  but to get to that point, viewers will have to dodge a fair amount of feces, blood, and vomit. It is certainly worth the challenge, but it won’t appeal to all viewers, likely landing Flesh Games more in favor of extreme film fans instead of found footage horror fans. Mike Miller, in particular, plays wonderfully into the kind of deranged lunatic/deviant you would expect lurking around the corner waiting to mangle some unfortunate person’s genitals.


Human Dart Board in Flesh Games

Where one ranks Flesh Games will depend on tolerance, nostalgia, and tolerance (yes, I said it twice). The project can be difficult to approach, and the amount of cringe before heading to the final moments will be cumbersome for many, even approaching with an appreciation for authenticity and immersion. Still, for a certain type of viewer, that s*** will hit the sweet spot.

Unnamed Found Footage Festival is an amazing source for pushing the boundaries of the found footage genre, and Flesh Game fits in perfectly with the line-up. Check out the age-restricted trailer for Flesh Games here.

We Watched Flesh Games as part of
Unnamed Footage Festival 7

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