Las Vegas is known the world over as ‘Sin City.’ It’s a place where people come to commit sordid and seedy acts, misbehave, indulge in questionable moral behaviour, and generally celebrate the darker side of themselves. Oh, and it also has some excellent stage shows. Given the persistent association between Las Vegas and the idea of being sinful, why is it that we’ve never seen any horror films set within its confines? New York and London get visited all the time by horror producers; what’s Vegas done wrong to get left out of the equation?
The answer is that it hasn’t. There have been horror films set in Las Vegas – and plenty of them – it’s just that they haven’t been very good. For some reason, Vegas appears to be the place that film franchises come when they’re making the third entry into a franchise, or when the producers have already been warned that their creation is heading straight to DVD. Sometimes, that’s resulted in quirky and inventive films. Other times, it’s resulted in the creation of films which are as cheap and tacky as the very worst entertainment Vegas has to offer. Join us as we take a look at the very best (or should that be very worst?) of horror films that used Las Vegas as a backdrop!
It would be harsh to call the third of the ‘Leprechaun’ movies a disappointment, because nobody had high expectations of it to begin with. The third entry in the series has the unenviable distinction of having a 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating from critics, and only 33% from viewers. On top of that, it was the first of the films to be released straight to DVD. Even though several subsequent films were released, which saw the Leprechaun character go ‘into space’ (always a sign that a series has jumped the shark) and ‘In The Hood’ (with Ice-T), ‘Leprechaun’ would never again see a full cinematic release.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with ‘Leprechaun 3,’ so long as you enjoyed the previous two films. This time, the Leprechaun has shown up at the ‘Lucky Shamrock’ casino. Given the sheer number of casino games which use leprechauns and other Irish stereotypes as a theme, it’s little wonder that he’s so angry about them. We can almost understand his willingness to kill the people who play there; he’s taking revenge for the way he and his kind have been portrayed in casinos for years. This is a very silly film with an even sillier plot, but it does raise a smile.
When the first couple of ‘Hostel’ movies were released, they seemed like a more intelligent and slightly less repulsive answer to the popularity of the ‘Saw’ movies. Eli Roth’s creations were no less shocking than ‘Saw,’ but always seemed to have a social or political undertone, and an attempt to make a statement about the world and times in which we live. Roth lost the desire to make any more Hostel films after the first two. He should probably have made sure nobody else was able to take up the baton and run with it. We say ‘run’ – we actually mean ‘stumble.’
‘Hostel: Part III,’ is about as generic as gory horror movies come in the 21st century. Shorn of its vaguely-plausible Eastern European setting, where filmmakers generally go to create horrific environments which we like to tell ourselves don’t exist in the Western world, the story takes place in Vegas instead. That means we have hookers, bachelor parties, glitz and glamour, and then kidnap and death. Basically, it’s all the less-clever parts of a ‘Hostel’ movie, but with drinking and dancing.
Dead Man’s Hand
This 2007 movie came with the subtitle ‘Casino of the Damned,’ just in case you didn’t pick up on the gambling reference from the main title. To its credit, we have to admire the way it goes way over the top with its plot. A man dies, and leaves a casino to his nephew. The nephew heads to Las Vegas to claim his prize, only to find that his casino is full of dead gangsters who weren’t big fans of his uncle, and now intend to exact their revenge upon him.
Instead of running away and selling the casino to some other hapless sucker, our hero inexplicably decides to stick around and fight the dead mobsters, leading to scenes which are every bit as implausible and yet horrifying as they sound. This probably explains why people don’t like to be in empty casinos at night. It may even explain why so many people now prefer to play their games at online casinos you can find on handy review sites such as SisterSite.co.uk instead of venturing out and risking the real thing. You won’t come across a Mafia made up of corpses at an online casino.
Resident Evil: Extinction
This is a higher profile release than the previous movies we’ve looked at – it made it all the way to the box office, and even made a return on its investment! Like ‘Hostel’ and ‘Leprechaun,’ it’s also the third in a series. Perhaps if movie franchises didn’t wait until they were running low on material to head to Vegas, we wouldn’t have so many Sin City horror films of questionable quality.
There are a few places that ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’ falls down, and possibly chief among them is its poor use of Las Vegas and its scenery. There’s a good reason for that; many of the scenes which claim to be set in Vegas were actually filmed in Mexico. Critics of the time picked up on this, and complained that the presentation was at odds with the post-apocalyptic Vegas landscape that had been promised to them. Audiences weren’t much more enthusiastic, but it didn’t stop another ‘Resident Evil’ movie being released a few years later.
Cold, heartless creatures who stalk through the darkness, keen to drain every last drop of blood from you and then cast you aside when you’re completely dry and have nothing left to give. That’s enough about the people who operate Vegas casinos though; in this movie, there are also vampires to worry about! We can’t work out whether this film is supposed to be tongue in cheek or not. We really hope it is, because if it isn’t, it’s the most unintentionally funny movie we’ve seen in a long time.
Look out for Daniel Baldwin completely phoning in a cameo appearance, Tiny Lister looking like he’s wandered onto the set of the wrong movie, and dialogue that simply has to be heard to be believed. ‘Vegas Vampires’ is all about the police officers of Vegas going on the hunt for a Vampire king (probably a standard part of the job in that part of the world), with all the blood, gore, and folly you’d hope to find in a romp like this.
That’s all the Vegas horror we can stand for now, but hopefully one day soon someone will use the scenery of the city to its full potential, and give us a horror movie we can truly go all in on!