Rookie cop, Stan Jeter (Beau Mirchoff) finds himself at the mercy of a masked madman when both he and a young woman are abducted. Drawing from tales told to him by his superiors at an exclusive poker night, Stan must use all he has learned to fight his way to freedom and bring his assailant to justice.
It’s a rare thing to see a horror/thriller making a true and valiant effort to the flesh out its character and its story. Because of this Joker has a lot to offer. We have a likeable hero, and his supporting cast, even more so. Even Stan’s voice-overs survive eye-rolling scrutiny. As satisfying a movie as Joker is, it actually turns out that adding that little extra missing flesh can sometimes be detrimental.
The only real trouble with Joker is that it tends to lose its grip, its atmosphere more often than not when it switches to and from Stan’s flashbacks of playing poker with the other cops. With characters such as SOA legend Ron Perlman, these moments hold more interest, which I imagine was initially the point as the movie’s original title was, in fact, Poker Night. So when we return to such settings as Stan super-glued half naked to the wall of his cell like a bluebottle on sticky flypaper, it starts to become a little bit too funny. SPLAT!
The villain himself looks like a cross between The Collector (2009) and the Scarecrow from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005). Hardly original, but you gotta use what it works. However, I have to hand it to the makers of this movie as they have observed and learned from other lines of its breed, and have come up with new and intriguing ways for him to be cruel and sadistic.
Whether you like it or not, this one makes a real effort and is one of the year’s better DVD releases on what has become an ever-deepening pool of dire disappointments. Roll on Halloween!