Dead Man’s Hand (DVD)

Dead Man's Hand reviewStarring Sid Haig, Robin Sydney, Scott Whyte, Kristyn Green, Michael Berryman

Directed by Charles Band

The following “exciting/suspenseful” things occur during the first 25-minutes of Charles Band’s newest Full Moon production, Dead Man’s Hand: Casino of the Damned:

  • Five minute pre-title sequence in which characters wander around an abandoned casino and die off-camera
  • Characters talk about their relationships
  • Characters then talk about an abandoned casino
  • An orgasm is faked, but not during actual sex
  • A conversation about a character’s impotence
  • More characters wandering around an abandoned casino
  • Two characters talk about the art of playing cards
  • Then a really hot blonde started doing a striptease and suddenly I was lulled out of my slumber, though points must be deducted for lack of nudity. Still, it was something.

    And now that the film had regained my attention, director Band wisely used this opportunity to once again bore me back into my stupor with ten more minutes of exposition and wandering around. Not a whole hell of a lot going on in this movie. Well, to be fair, a toilet did overflow with what looked to have been blood and a slot machine appeared as if it may have paid off with a couple small body parts. The characters didn’t seem to care much about any of this so why should I?

    Finally, after more of the same, around the 42-minute mark and the movie halfway over, the supernatural aspect of the plot kicks in. Even then it felt the movie was just trying to buy time until the one hour mark when something genuinely resembling plot advancement would begin to occur.

    Given how little this movie made me care, I’m just going to copy and paste the plot synopsis:

    “After inheriting a casino from his dead uncle, Matthew Dragna, his girl friend J.J (Robin Sydney) and a group of friends take a road trip to the outskirts of Las Vegas, where they find the run-down Mysteria Casino. But the trip takes a frightening turn when the kids discover that the casino is haunted by the ghosts of Vegas mobsters Roy “The Word” Donahue (Sid Haig) and his goon Gil Wachetta (Michael Berryman), looking to settle an old score. Matthew and J.J. must fight for their very souls as the ghosts seek their gruesome vengeance, and in the vein of The Shining, this horrifying tale builds to a bloody and surprising climax.”

    I assure you that climax is neither bloody nor surprising.

    Anyone watching this movie solely for Sid Haig and Michael Berryman are probably going to be a bit disappointed. The two of them have maybe ten minutes of screen time. Haig can play this sort of well spoken creep role in his sleep, and though he does have a moment or two of vintage Haig-ness, the script gives him virtually nothing to chew on. Berryman has even less to do aside from just behind Haig just looking like Michael Berryman dressed like a flashy mobster. Their whole beef with the protagonists stems from getting snuffed out by Matthew’s uncle long ago and a lost fortune in silver hidden somewhere within the casino. It all culminates is a rather spiritless game of cards with souls at stake.

    The other friends get to take turns falling victim to either a demonic card dealer who plays for body parts, a demonic roulette dealer who looks like an inflatable version of the Gingerdead Man in a casino uniform, and a sexy ghostly cocktail waitress who transforms into something resembling The Cryptkeeper but with slot machine eyes that spin various death related symbols. Outside of the goofy sight of the demonic zombie with the slot machine eyes (that only appears once), none of the life or death games of chance or the unholy entities running the rigged games do much to frighten or entertain. There’s nothing especially wrong with the actors other than they have nothing to work with.

    I realize Band is working with a very low budget but this lethargically paced flick seems to have had more thought put into the brooding production design and snazzy opening credits sequence than ever went into the screenplay. Everyone gets short-changed by a talky script that could have made for a mediocre episode of “Tales from the Darkside” episode, but instead Dead Man’s Hand: Casino of the Damned is an often punishing 80-minute bore of which practically the entire first hour consists of dull exposition and drawn out stuff that feels like padding. Almost nothing of any significance occurred until the last 20-minutes and even then it wasn’t much to get excited or scared over.

    There’s a short “making of” extra on the disc in which Charles Band repeatedly invokes The Shining, a mind-blowing comparison on any level given how lackluster his movie proved to be. Everyone talks up how great everyone else was to work with and what a terrific job Charles Band and company did creating the sets with such limited resources, but I couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of talk when it came to putting over the film’s plot. Gee, I wonder why? I also couldn’t help but hear Band repeatedly gush so lovingly over actress Robin Sydney to the point that I found myself wondering if there was more to their relationship than just director and leading lady.

    Band wraps up the segment talking about future Full Moon productions planned for 2007-2008, including another doll-themed movie to be called Worry Dolls. It’s to the point that even he can’t help but scoff a little when talking about making a new puppet movie. He also states sequels to old school Full Moon films Dollman and Doctor Mordrid are in the planning stage, as well as a brand spanking new Puppet Master flick next year.

    We also get somewhere in the neighborhood of ten Full Moon trailers on the disc, one of which is for Full Moon’s next release, Decadent Evil 2. Ugh!

    Special Features

  • “Making of Dead Man’s Hand: Casino of the Damned

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    2 out of 5

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    Jon Condit

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