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Haunted Casino,The

Review by: 
Dead Man's Hand
Release Date: 
Full Moon Features
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
August White
Wes Armstrong
Michael Berryman
Kristyn Green
Sid Haig
Bottom Line: 
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Casinos are odd places, with all the lit dials, displays and doohickeys declaring immediate loss and gain in the air, (yet with no visible clocks) they are perhaps the last place in existence where you can double your lifetime earnings in a second or die ten years earlier from all the second hand smoke you will breathe in during the span of an afternoon. Imagine if you will, a casino was haunted by a crime boss whose henchman and three table bosses were murdered in the sixties who have waited for decades for someone to come back and awaken them, no less than the last living descendant of the man who murdered them? Care to try your luck with this movie premise? Great! Sorry Sir, better luck next time....

When the film begins, Matthew Dragna and his girlfriend J.J. are visiting the casino that Matthew inherited from his late Uncle.  Along in tow are four of friends whose exact personalities could have only been stolen from the Scooby Doo show, then reworked with slightly more adult tastes and preferences that have been suggested for years by stand-up comedians. There is Shaggy/Jimbo the dumb, ne'er do well hipster who slacks off and smokes dope. There is Fred/Skeeter the metro-sexual pretty boy who fancies himself some sort of Lothario. There is Daphne/Paige who is Skeeters girlfriend; an internet model and a requisite dumb pretty thing. Finally there is Selma/Emily a brainy, bespectacled mathematics whiz who is great at crunching numbers but is secretly in lust with Paige. (Tsk, tsk, I always suspected/fantasized as much). Now while there is no actual Scooby Doo, or animal mascot in this picture, as we will soon see the plot of this thing is a big enough dog all its own.

No sooner does the gang settle down for a night's rest when the boogeymen come out of the casino games and start to make trouble for our young cast. These “ghosts in the machines” at first flirt with the twenty-somethings, amuse them with parlor games and pleasantry but then soon enough, these table masters do what you expect, intimidate their house guests  into participating in games of chance and then penalizing them severely when they lose. These house games are basically the same premise as every SAW film, only without all the ingenious Rube Gold Burg devices of automated evisceration, top notch visual effects and sense of suspense/fair play.  Did I mention all the games are rigged, and no one can win?  The film does, which makes future scenes of people being forced to playing them devoid of pretty much any drama whatsoever.

The film does feature some horror alumni however; none other than Sid Davis (Cpt. Spaulding) as Roy “the Word” Donohue, the undead crime boss and Michael Berryman, the guy from the 1977 version of The Hills Have Eyes (who looks like a cross between the Bailiff from Night Court and an aged prune), as his undead henchman. These guys, in true casino boss fashion visit Matthew in the middle of the night, telling him that he is going to pay for what his Uncle did to them, (murdering them all in self-defense), and that they should just try and escape alive, (Insert canned B movie madman laughter here).  Finally, in typical game show host fashion he adds that there is a fortune in silver hidden within the casino in case they decide to tempt fate and stick around. Oh well, Vegas wasn't built by equipping all players with a clear understanding of the odds, and neither were B movies about games of death.

Look, this film is pretty dumb. The three different table games that kill could have used some detail, some rules, some nuance other than “win and live, lose and die”.  When the various table masters mutate into demons, seconds before the kill, they shape-shift into a strange menagerie of shrill stupid things that again, make no sense and resemble puppets shot in forced perspective that have been substituted for the live actors a frame before.

There is one nice scene, a fusion between puppetry and CGI where a slot machine girl becomes a demon with rolling eyes that spin like the individual windows on a slot machine moments before she strikes, with the various tumblers each representing a different death symbol, but as usual it has no real bearing on the game-play motif of the movie, because as mentioned before all the games in this casino are rigged. That is until Matthew settles down for one final “all or nothing” winner-takes-all round of cards...

Matthew's opponent is of course, Roy “The Word” Donohoe, who he agrees to play ONLY after Roy PROMISES to make it a fair game, this time. Who among us wouldn't want to get in a card game with an obviously evil demon who has just cheated then slaughtered all  their friends in rigged casino games, because he PROMISED “This time, it's on the level” sweetening the deal by adding that if Matthew should win, he can still have the secret stash of silver.  (Seriously, Who in the hell is the technical gaming consultant on this thing, Charlie Daniels?) Of course, after agreeing to this “deal with the devil” it ends like you probably think it does.  I guess that's why they call him Roy “the Word” Donohue.  And also why I call this a pointless, soulless boobless waste off 77 minutes of my life, yours too. And that's why you may call me Sin “the Final Word” Ferno. (Please don't call me that, ever)

Still if you have ever wanted to figure out a way to scrub an entire childhood of bad Scooby-Doo cartoons out of your brain, watching this look-alike gang get slaughtered piecemeal by actual magical monster bad-guys haunting a place instead of “Old Man McLeary in a mask” for the 3000th fucking time, is kind of a kick; an act of “Hanna Barbarism” I have been secretly, subconsciously waiting for since I was eight. So I am willing to give a skull just for that alone under Extras.  Now if only someone could catch that insufferable Road Runner....

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