Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ghosts of Mobster-run Vegas come backin 'Dead Man's Hand'

Dead Man's Hand: Casino of the Damned (aka "The Haunted Casino") (2007)
Starring: Robin Sydney, Scott Whyte, Kristyn Green, Wes Armstrong, Lily Rains, Kavan Reece, Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, Jessica Morris, and Rico Simonini
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band and Joe Dain
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

After his mobster uncle dies in prison for five murders committed forty years ago, Matthew Dragna (Whyte) inherits his long-closed Las Vegas casino, the Mysteria. Together with four friends (Armstrong, Green, Rains, Reece, and Sydney) he starts restoring the place, hoping to reopen it while preserving its archaic look as a way to revive the spirit of Vegas' early years when the Rat Pack and mobsters ran the show. But, they soon discover that the spirit of mob-ruled Vegas is already very moch alive within the walls of the Mysteria, in the form of long-dead gangster Roy Donahue (Haig)... and he has score to settle with the Dragna family.

"Dead Man's Hand: Casino of the Damned" is a straight-forward, barebones traditional haunted house story. It unfolds quickly, with not a moment of screentime wasted. Unforunately, it's so barebones that several of the characters barely get any development and the ultimate resolution of the plot feels a little rushed and too easy.

Because of its very traditional and straight-forward nature, the film also is fairly scare-free for most of its running time. It's not rated, but I suspect it would be a PG-13 film, and even when compared to other horror films at that level it's tame. Even the teens will be unimpressed, as the first hour unfolds as a steady, but tension-free pace. There's just enough going on to keep your interest, but not much more than that. (The lack of ability for a character to "get it up" and the interaction with his bitchy girlfriend is the most interesting activity during the first part of the movie.)

As for the rest the cast and the film's effects, they're okay. As mentioned above, the actors are all well-cast. I wish the puppetry on the ghosts aside from the slot girl had been a bit more effective, and Sid Haig wasn't as impressive here as he was in "House of 1000 Corpses", but the puppets and his performance were passable.

"Dead Man's Hand: Casino of the Damned" is worth seeing primarily for Simonini and that really cool slot ghost; they earn it a full point on their own, lifting it from a low 4 rating to a medium to high 5. It's not necessarily a movie I recommend you go our of your way for, but it's got moments that make it worth checking out.

Watch the preview of "Dead Man's Hand: Casino of the Damned",
courtesy of Full Moon Entertainment and YouTube.