Poker Night (2014)

Photo by aryokmateus, CC0 Creative Commons

Horror and poker are two genres that few people would ordinarily consider mixing in a film. Nevertheless, that’s what director Greg Francis did back in 2014 with the crime thriller Poker Night. It is by no means a run-of-the-mill horror movie. It was Francis’ first foray into the world of theatrical features, having been a veteran of directing television shows for many years. The film centers on a police detective, Stan Jeter, played by Beau Mirchoff, who becomes embroiled in a cat-and-mouse duel after being kidnapped by a serial killer. The film uses flashbacks to symbolize the emotional turmoil that Jeter goes through with the masked keeper.

The Importance of the Poker Nights to Jeter’s Fate

Jeter was a promising police officer in the heard of Indiana who received a much-deserved promotion to detective. However, he lacked the experience and gumption of many of his predecessors. The retired police officers from the local Warsaw police force sat down for a cash game of classic Texas Hold ‘em to share war stories and reminisce about the good old days in the force. They invited Jeter to start playing with them in a bid to impart their years of wisdom in the force upon him. Although Jeter visited the poker games with trepidation, little did he know that those poker nights would end up saving his life.

Throughout the poker nights, each retired officer recounted stories that would be profoundly like the experience Jeter would have with the serial killer. Jeter’s flashbacks during his encounter with the killer and another hostage were based on the advice and guidance his elders had offered him at the poker table. Jeter’s nightmare began when he responded to a domestic dispute call from a local resident. He ventures over to the house in question only to end up being tasered and bound to a chair in a dark, dingy basement.

Frustrating flashbacks or engaging cinematography? You Decide

Beau Mirchoff was a relatively new and inexperienced actor at the time of this movie, but he did a good job of demonstrating the mental and physical torture that Jeter found himself in. Although some people may find the increasing back-and-forth flicking between flashbacks and reality frustrating, others will view it as hugely engaging cinematography to build the tension. Even the vicious psychopath, played by Michael Eklund, is portrayed brilliantly, with a spooky leather mask hiding his identity throughout. Jeter pits his wits against the captor in a battle of minds and wills to not only free himself from the captor’s clutches but the other hostage too, Amy, a naïve police officer’s daughter.

Despite its numerous critics, Poker Night features some solid actors, including Gus from Breaking Bad fame and Clay from Sons of Anarchy. Not only that, if you’re prepared to take the film at face value, it will almost leave you on the edge of your seat as you don’t know what will happen next. The intricate subplots add another dimension to the film too, telling the life stories of the retired officers as well as helping Jeter to forge his career path. While it’s important to document in this horror movie review that it’s never going to become a multi-award winner, it is an underrated movie that’s well worth a look.