‘Pass the Parcel’ as reviewed by Dara McWade
Set against the scenic locales of his native County Down, Conal Scullion’s Pass the Parcel is a riff on the absolute banger of a children’s party game. It’s a fun and lively film that shows real creativity. A fun little thriller, it functions almost as a PG version of Black Mirror’s Shut Up and Dance, with the titular parcel being, well, passed from person to person in a deliberately confusing and elaborate mystery – all under six minutes! The many, many characters (I counted eight in the credits), are all played with the cast’s native lovely, lilting Northern Irish accents. These various sorts are ordered around by a mysterious man over the phone, shot like a Bond villain. This conspiracy takes us from ancient runes to a snow-laden field, while its byzantine, nonsensical plot falls apart. Nevertheless, it had our live audience in stiches. Match this with some legitimately decent fight choreography, and it’s clear that Scullion has a firm grasp on the basics of his craft, and a lot of promise too.
The production got lucky with their shoot times; while I’m sure a snowstorm played havoc with their filming schedules, the crew gain a sense of filmic ambition from the turbulent weather. This stand-out sequence features a fight sequence that impressed me, with fluid camerawork and strong stunts. The interior locations, on the other hand, pale a bit in comparison – ending the film in what amounts to a classroom is a bit of a let-down after the location shoots. However, the central sequences, and the emphasis on solid choreography, expand the scope of the film in a controlled, effective way.
The pastiche at the core of the story, patchwork plot of Nolanesque tropes and thriller archetypes, exists mostly as an arch joke in the background. Which is basically just a fancy way of saying; it’s funny. The film is a laugh that never takes itself quite seriously; the ending is a punchline on the type of films that Netflix might categorise as “Mind-game thrillers”. Pass-the-Parcel is, much like the game it’s based upon, good clean fun, complete with a prize at the end. The crowd at The Film Scene loved it, and so will you.