Movie review: Delicious mystery homage Murder Party delivers on fun and games

Murder Party’s title is deceptively simple. But within those two words are several puzzle boxes and twists.

That’s the fun of it, and Murder Party knows exactly what it’s about.

It also knows exactly where it comes from and why a moviegoer might choose to buy a ticket to a film called Murder Party. It has one purpose – entertain and challenge the keenest of murder mystery fans – and it delivers on that promise.

A French farce that revels in the tropes of its delicious genre, Murder Party owes almost everything to all of its predecessors. There’s the obvious one, Knives Out, aping even its distinct font in the movie’s marketing.

But there’s a raft of influences ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Cluedo, and its full embrace of the thrills and conventions of all that came before is why Murder Party is such a charming and diverting little movie.

Architect Jeanne (Alice Pol) is called to the isolated country estate of a games empire family to present her vision for their grand renovations. Upon arriving, she realises the family – patriarch Cesar (Eddy Mitchell), his son Theo (Pablo Pauly), his daughter Lena (Sarah Stern), his wife Salome (Pascale Arbillot), his sister Jo (Miou-Miou) and butler Armand (Gustave Kervern) – are all a bit kooky.

When Cesar drops dead, seemingly poisoned, the murder mystery game the family were engaged in, kicks in for real. A voice over a PA tells them that they must play a series of games to uncover the killer. If they guess correctly, they’ll be freed. If they’re wrong, they’ll be killed. If they don’t play at all, also dead.

The reserved Jeanne is a reluctant joiner but the quest for survival is a great motivator.

There is so much here for genre fans to drink in. There’s the conspicuous hat-tip to the godmother of closed house mysteries, Agatha Christie, with its ensemble of cloistered characters and limited suspects running around a baroque mansion.

The use of bold flashing colour evokes Vertigo while the outsider among the games empire family recalls 2019 slasher comedy Ready or Not. The second game in the film is an escape room challenge while it also has flashes of fellow French dark comedy 8 Femmes.

Murder Party is a cornucopia of references but rather than descend into some prosaic mishmash, it’s a clever and playful homage.

Like the Cluedo movie before it, Murder Party clearly loves the genre and it’s inviting the audience to be part of the fun and games. And it’ll manage to keep you guessing with a few tricks you won’t see coming.

Rating: 3/5

Murder Party is in cinemas now

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