Death’s Roulette (2023) Takes a Chance on Familiar Concept and Earns Winning Results
Title: Death’s Roulette
First Non-Festival Release: May 5, 2023 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Manolo Cardona
Writer: Gavo Amiel, Frank Ariza, Juliete Steinberg
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Starring: Maolo Cardona, Maribel Verdú, Carla Adell
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Seven people wake up in a well-decorated room without any recollection of how they got there. Convinced they have been held hostage for a ransom, they begin looking for a way out of their moderately comfortable prison. Soon, they come across a device that clues them in on their situation: they are here to play a twisted game. The rules are simple. They must choose one of them to die, the one chosen must agree to their death, and no one can voluntarily sacrifice themselves. If they fail to abide by these three rules, in one hour they will all be killed.
Familiar trapped-in-room mystery Death’s Roulette is elevated by engaging set pieces and strong performances.
Wearing its influences on its sleeve, Death’s Roulette weaves a complex web to tell its simple story of revenge. Mixing the best of Saw and Clue together, Death’s Roulette remains true to its goal of making each character sweat. Any good mystery ensures that there are enough clues dropped throughout the story for the audience to figure out what is happening on their own. Individual strings mean nothing. As the story gives more it becomes imperative that these strings connect in a way that feels natural and progressively shows a clearer picture of what exactly is happening. Death’s Roulette does a nice job of this without doing too much handholding.
Playing to its strengths, Death’s Roulette focuses on building the suspense in a dynamic and engaging manner. One of the easiest ways to ratchet up the stakes of a survival horror film is to introduce a ticking clock. Death’s Roulette starts its terrifying game with just that while introducing the rules of a very simple yet deadly game. Simple yet effective storytelling, allows this constant reminder of their fleeting time makes for easy suspense.Despite its ridiculously ornate set, Death’s Roulette keeps its terror relatively simple with its three main rules. Mini games are introduced throughout the film where the characters can learn secrets about each other and understand why and how they are tied together. As the secrets come to light, the desperation of the crew increases which shows in their words and actions. Soon, they have more to worry about than their faceless captors.
The mansion becomes a character in of itself by the time Death’s Roulette plays its course. A good mystery is only as exciting as its location, and Death’s Roulette has an excellent setting. The spacious mansion works more than a statement against the greed and power in the room, it also reflects the failures of the individuals playing the game in a deliciously contemptuous way. As the group gets more desperate and shaken at the continuous pauses in the game, tantalizing them into thinking their torment is through, they find themselves granted access to more of their prison. With each clue solved and every secret unearthed, the group grapples with the reality that their choices steered them there, making for a nice visual cue for audiences.
Death’s Roulette shines in the details especially when it comes to its characters. Diverse personalities and perspectives push the film is narrative along in an expedient yet enjoyable manner. Watching the crew accept the reality of their situation and the possibility of their dirty laundry being aired allows for some excellent moments of introspection while revealing the darker aspects of each person present. Nearly every player in the game is given a realistic explanation for their inclusion in the game. They may not fit neatly together in a bow but it's the attention to details that makes the final reveals more gratifying.
Trapped-in-a-room horror will always be a soft spot for this reviewer, but Death’s Roulette is a solid entry into the subgenre anyway, one that is plagued by cheap imitations of better made films. Its compelling mystery, engaging set pieces, and strong acting overshadows any familiarity that may be present within the plot. Lean, mean, and decently unpredictable, Death’s Roulette will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Overall Score? 7/10