One of the biggest days for the amateur horror filmmaker is the launch of Horror Film Roulette. Given just two weeks, the wheel spins, and filmmakers must create a horror short based on one of six sub-genres within the industry. Films span sci-fi, thriller, supernatural, slasher, monster, and zombie genres, with different challenges presented for each specialty. The competition skipped 2020 but is scheduled to return in 2021. Why do roulette and horror go so well together?
What is Horror Film Roulette?
Usually, on 1 October, the Wheel of Horror is spun, and participants wait with bated breath to discover which genre they will be working with. The teams then have until 15 October to submit their films. The films are screened later, and the winner earns “bragging rights” and some horror-themed prizes. While the finished piece won’t be eligible for the Palme d’Or, it does provide a chance for horror film lovers to come together to make their mark on the industry.
The excitement doesn’t just come from not knowing exactly which genre you might be crafting a film based around, but in the fact that some are categorically harder to shoot than others. Zombie and monster films require extensive make-up and possibly quite a few extras, while a thriller can be done with effectively one actor in one location. Of course, narrative plays a role, but each genre has some expectations.
Part of creating an interesting horror film, though, is subverting these expectations. The Cabin in the Woods did this in 2011, and Jordan Peele’s recent spate of social commentary horror flicks – including 2017 hit Get Out and Us (2019) – have shown that the genre doesn’t have to be as reductionist as some accuse it of being. So, the slasher film might not even let us see the killer, while the sci-fi might not require any visual effects. A zombie film could still work without seeing a single shambling corpse.
Why Does Roulette Work for Horror?
The Horror Film Roulette project cleverly blends three aspects together: the first is the genre, which is already armed to scare, the second is the adrenaline-worthy spin of the wheel, and the third is the panic of creating a film from concept to finished product in just two weeks.
By incorporating the adrenaline factor into the filmmaking process, the films are likely to be more fraught with tension, which could make for a scarier experience for viewers. While a good plot and strong filmmaking skills are necessary, the ultimate goal of the project is to scare audiences.
Roulette itself is based around excitement and tension, and also covers several sub-genres, not unlike the competition. As the range of roulette games at William Hill Casino show us, there are not only the standard games of roulette (European and American rules) but ones that show a live dealer, and ones themed around, for example, Greek mythology and Superman. These games are coded with the tense excitement that the concept fosters – as the wheel spins, you are on tenterhooks as you anticipate where the ball will land. As with horror films generating tension and scares, the same adrenaline is pumped through your body.
Horror Film Roulette is a clever challenge for those who love horror films and those who enjoy the excitement fostered by the game of roulette. The blend of the two and the short timeframe to create the films means that the tension in the finished film will have been created by the circumstances in which it was made, hopefully creating a better horror film.