If you enjoy mixing your love of gambling and horror, these three hidden gems offer outstanding odds for maximum entertainment.
We love horror films that mix things up and set tales of terror in interesting and unexpected locations. As we’ve told you before, one of our favorite settings is a casino in a location like Vegas or Atlantic City. Blood gets spilled over Roulette tables and Slot machines, screams of desperation echo through casino halls, and many innocent and not-so-innocent casino patrons meet their maker in the ultimate high-stakes game of life and death.
We’ve already curated a great triple-feature movie night for fans of casino horror. But we’re back to up the ante with three more can’t-miss gambling-related films, this time focusing on some hidden gems you likely may not have seen.
If, after watching these harrowing horror films, you prefer gambling from the safety and security of your abode rather than risk the terrifying unknown, play at GG bet, and keep the fun going from home.
1. Funny Man (1994)
Funny Man is a 1994 British horror comedy film written and directed by Simon Sprackling. It tells the story of Max (Benny Young), a record producer who wins an English mansion in a high-stakes poker game from a man named Callum Chance (the legendary Christopher Lee). But he soon realizes his luck is short-lived, and his new home is far from the prize he imagined. It comes with a nasty little, wise-cracking demon known as the titular Funny Man (Tim James), who is hell-bent on destroying Max’s life and viciously butchering his family in the most horrific ways imaginable.
Hailed as a riotous rollercoaster of gore, bad taste, profanity, and comedy, this R-rated gem has gained cult status with UK horror fans. Still, it remains relatively unknown in the U.S. — probably due in large part to how difficult it is to track down. The film received a VHS release in the U.S. in 1996 and an uncharacteristically bare-bones DVD release in 2001 by Arrow Entertainment.
I assure you, this wickedly funny, demented, and imaginative film is well worth your time.
Add in some delicious scenery chewing from Lee, a fantastic set design, solid direction and cinematography, and a delightful amount of blood and gore, and you’ve got a sure bet.
2. Spirits of the Dead (1994)
In what has been referred to as a masterpiece, the second entry in this three-part series has some gruesome murders that will send chills down anyone’s spine. It also gives horror fans some gambling actions in high-stakes games filled with tension.
Spirits of the Dead, also known as Tales of Mystery and Imagination and Tales of Mystery, is a 1968 horror anthology film comprising three segments respectively directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, and Federico Fellini, based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. The title is derived from an 1856 collection of Poe’s short stories translated by French poet Charles Baudelaire.
Segment one from Vadim tells the story of the debauched Countess Frédérique de Metzengerstein (Jane Fonda), who devotes herself to taming a wild horse that once belonged to her cousin, Baron Wilhelm Berlifitzing (Peter Fonda). The second entry from Malle follows Wilson (Alain Delon), hounded throughout his life of cruelty and deception by a doppelgänger, whom he challenges to a fatal duel. And the third and final segment from Fellini deals with an alcoholic Shakespearean actor (Terrence Stamp), whose trip to Rome to make a Spaghetti Western is complicated by multiple encounters with the Devil.
Vadim’s adaptation of Metzengerstein features lush visuals and narration by Vincent Price. He was married to Jane Fonda at the time, so he cast the stunning actress as his star in the role of a vile woman named Frederique who torments her servants in between lavish orgies. She eventually falls in love with her virtuous cousin, Wilhelm, who rejects her evil ways (the cousin she lusts after is her real-life brother, Peter, seriously increasing the ick factor). Distraught over the rejection, Frederique sets Wilhelm’s stables on fire and kills him in the process. After his death, a new horse suddenly appears outside of Frederique’s castle, and she becomes obsessed with it, convinced it’s the reincarnated spirit of Wilhelm.
Malle’s William Wilson takes place in the early 19th century when Northern Italy is under Austrian rule.
An army officer named William Wilson rushes to confess to a priest that he has committed murder. Wilson then relates the story of his cruel ways throughout his life. This segment features an intense scene in which Wilson plays cards all night, gambling against the lovely courtesan Giuseppina (Josephine in the English version), played by screen siren Brigitte Bardot. Wilson’s doppelgänger, who goes by the same name, convinces people that Wilson has cheated, resulting in a deadly encounter and a tragic ending.
Finally, Fellini’s Toby Dammit is often heralded as one of the filmmaker’s greatest films — a masterpiece of the last sixties art film. Set in contemporary Rome, it’s an adaption of Poe’s Never Bet the Devil Your Head, published in 1841. Poe’s work was a brief comic satire of the transcendentalist movements that were then popular in Europe and America. Toby Dammit borrows from Hammer Studios and Mario Bava, blending stunning set design with gothic-supernatural material and sensuality. It’s funny, nightmarish, and thought-provoking.
As with Funny Man, finding this one readily available to stream is a bit hard. You can currently watch an excellent quality cut of the film on The Criterion Channel with a subscription (well worth it for cinephiles), or click here for the best version of the film free online.
A brilliant time capsule of the era, it stands up exceedingly well decades later.
3. Unidentified (2013)
Unidentified is a strange but satisfying blend of found footage horror, sci-fi, and comedy.
The film is about four friends who get into trouble with a loan shark while gambling in Las Vegas. The friends flee the city and become stranded in the Nevada desert. While stranded, one friend discovers a mysterious metal fragment and goes missing during the night. When the remaining three catch up with their lost friend, there’s something different about him. As his condition worsens, the others realize that something unearthly might be stalking them in the desert.
Unidentified marks the feature directorial debut of Jason R. Miller, who also wrote the film along with Eddie Mui (original concept and story) and Parry Shen (story). Both Mui and Shen also star in the film, along with Colton Dunn and Eric Artell.
Starting off a bit silly, it then leans hard into a chaotic buddy comedy as the friends go on a wild ride full of gambling, loan sharks, prostitutes, and mayhem. Later in the film, it morphs into an alien horror where things start to get intense and genre fans are rewarded for their patience.
Given the recent news about just how much the government may be hiding when it comes to potential alien visitors, this is a timely and thrilling watch.
The acting is stellar, the characters are likable and relatable (including two Asian-American leads, which is always great to see), and it boasts a hell of an effective and unexpected ending.
For lovers of casinos and horror movies, finding a combination of the two is always an elusive affair, but we’ve done the digging for you oand found a winning hand for the perfect triple feature movie night.