THE JOKER (2014)
aka POKER NIGHT
Directed by Greg Francis
Rookie cop Stan Jeter, who recently turned detective after solving a high profile case, finds himself in the direst of situations when he is captured by a psychopath. With the benefit of hindsight, he realises he could have avoided the mess he’s in but realises he must draw upon what he knows and the advice he’s been given in the past by his high ranking officers to help him escape the basement prison alive.
Horror thriller THE JOKER, also known as POKER NIGHT is a tense, thought-provoking twist of a movie that pushes the viewer to help solve the riddle as to why Detective Jeter has been kidnapped and imprisoned by the unnamed masked psychopath. Using a poker night attended by Jeter and his superiors, all of whom have advice and wisdom to impart on the rookie through tales of their own hard-earned career highlights, the story is driven by flashbacks as Jeter, who in present day is imprisoned, must use this inherited wisdom to save his skin otherwise his colleagues’ struggles will have all been for nothing.
A whole host of brilliant stars make up the small cast in this film including Ron Perlman, Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring), Michael Eklund and Titus Welliver (Lost/Bosch) whilst Beau Mirchoff takes the lead as Stan Jeter. Stan is a young guy who got lucky with a case, promoting him to detective, but in reality he’s still a rookie. He has much to learn and, as these turn of events go, it seems he will have to combine his little experience with that of his elders to fathom a way out of the dungeon he finds himself in. Unfortunately for Stan, his captor is no dummy and escaping with his life won’t be an easy task.
Told mostly from the basement prison setting, THE JOKER allows the viewer to settle into Stan’s new environment, enough for the dark, damp surroundings to get underneath your skin as they do Stan’s. The masked murderer’s plans are wicked in intent and his actions will make the viewer wince more than once. Never is it gratuitous though, with the antagonist playing with Stan like a cat would with a mouse. He has Stan exactly where he wants him and lets him see only what he wants him to see. This is no ordinary criminal and thus he cannot be treated as such as Stan finds out. This guy is definitely a cut above the slasher villains we’re used to seeing in horror movies.
Contrary to the DVD cover, our masked villain is no Batman baddie ripoff. The mask he sports is actually a creepy, haggard version of a gimp mask as if gimp masks weren’t freaky enough. The Joker is merely a nod to the figure in the deck of cards and considering the police department’s poker night is a big feature in this movie, the title fits quite swimmingly to describe the antagonist of the piece. The film is also packed with black humour, particularly when giving background to Stan’s past experiences working homicide and the psychopath’s life before he turned into the killer he is today, which provides some very dark laughs indeed.
Extremely well written and structured, THE JOKER is a captivating movie with some painful, disturbing horror in places whilst maintaining a clever edge throughout. It constantly leaves the viewer on the edge of their seat, wondering how the scenario will play out, and as a film lover this is exactly what I look for in a movie.
An exciting screenplay with solid performances from all involved, THE JOKER is certainly no horror thriller to laugh at.