The drama of high-stakes casino gambling has been seemingly irresistible to filmmakers and producers for generations. From award-laden titles such as Rounders (1997) to the less well-received Maverick (1994), there are dozens of titles that tap into the nail-biting nature of roulette wheels and blackjack tables, not to mention the number of fascinating characters typically found in such a setting.
For whatever reason, the number of horror films featuring casinos and casino games is far less frequent. Films such as Leprechaun 3 (1995), Remains (2011) and Dead Man’s Hand: Casino of the Damned (2007) are some of the more brazen examples of this crossover, but none made an impact at the box-office and despite a degree of cult acclaim, they were roundly damned by critics.
The ill-fated Leprechaun sequels have become a byword for laughable horror, and the third edition is perhaps the biggest reason for this, earning a paltry one-star rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The same goes for the two other titles, with Remains failing to register on most major movie review sites and The Haunted Casino receiving a generous 4/10 rating on IMDB.
Quite why the volume of casino-based movies in mainstream Hollywood hasn’t crossed over into the horror genre is a mystery to many, with all current attempts underfunded and underexplored. Surely the combination of casino drama and nail-biting zombie horror would be a match made in heaven, with both the horror movie industry and the casino industry having made huge leaps further into the mainstream in recent years.
As a genre, horror films have made up a record-high 11% share of the global box-office in 2017, a number up from just 4% in 2016. High-profile titles such as Get Out (2017), and It: Chapter One (2017) have raked in huge numbers and enjoyed mainstream success, whilst the French-Belgian instant classic Raw (2016) has delivered horror to the world of streaming on Netflix. Horror movies have yielded a massive $960bn from the box office this year, another record high.
It’s a theme that has been mirrored by that of the casino gambling industry, which has found that the ability to bring the drama of the casino floor to the palm of a user’s hand has been a game changer. The ability to play live blackjack at William Hill on an iPhone, for example, has contributed to the fact that online gambling is now the biggest gambling sector in the UK, with $3.4bn generated from casino gaming last year alone. Indeed, in 2017, casinos are as mainstream as sports betting.
With the Land of the Dead series about whirr itself back into action and throw out its latest title in the form of 2018’s Road of the Dead, perhaps a zombie-infested casino could be incorporated into the series one day down the line, a road less travelled in horror circles. The same goes for other famous franchises such as the modern favourite Purge, or old classics Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, where famous villains could find the dark nooks and crannies of a casino floor all too irresistible.
With both the casino and horror industries flourishing in recent years and showing no signs of slowing, it may be that the popular casino genre is one tapped into by horror filmmakers in the near future. What fright fans will be excited to see is how that manifests itself. Watch this space.