On the eve of the Apocalypse, a motley group of strangers plays Russian Roulette with a man claiming to be the Devil for a chance to save the world in Neil Chase and David Heacock’s thriller Spin The Wheel.
Independent apocalyptic fantasy thrillers are a niche sub-genre of science fiction that has gained popularity over the years, and after the Covid pandemic, they tend to hit a lot harder. Due to budgetary constraints, these films typically feature very little of their post-apocalyptic world and mainly focus on character-driven storylines. Directed by Neil Chase and David Heacock, Spin The Wheel is no exception, taking place in a single location, a downtown bar, where a band of survivors struggles against the odds. While hiding away, one member of the group claims to be ‘The Devil’, and challenges everyone in the room to a game of Russian roulette where victory will save the earth from destruction.
Sadly, we never get to see much of the devastation of the world in any great detail, and although this is totally understandable, it doesn’t give the audience much sense as to what is happening beyond the bar’s four walls, so we don’t get to appreciate any inventive world-building. Yet while it doesn’t have the same level of production values as its big-budget counterparts, directed by Neil Chase and David Heacock, Spin The Wheel still manages to be thought-provoking, particularly in its attempts at a character-driven story offering a unique take on the end of the world. The cherry on the cake is that it provides us with a suspenseful and nerve-shredding game of Russian roulette that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
One of the better aspects of Spin The Wheel is co-director Heacock’s cinematography. The film takes place in a bleak and darkly lit gin joint, and the cinematography perfectly captures the sense of despair that permeates the film. The use of desaturated colours and wide-angle shots creates a sense of hopelessness, with the camera work mixing establishing shots and close-ups that capture the emotions of its characters. The sound design of Spin The Wheel is also worth mentioning because the film begins with a mix of 80’s style metal and ambient electric guitar sounds that actually create a mellow-yet-tense atmosphere.
Chase and Heacock also edited Spin The Wheel and they manage to give the film a calm and slow pace that is at odds with what is happening on the screen; it’s an interesting but effective technique that creates a lot of tension during the roulette scenes. One of the major qualities of Spin The Wheel is the cast; the film features a talented ensemble of actors giving solid performances. The lead actors, Dianne Wulf and Neil Chase, are particularly impressive. Wulf delivers a good performance beginning as someone who doesn’t care what happens, but turns into a desperate person willing to do anything to survive. While Chase brings a sense of playfulness to his role as the devil, watching everyone else trying to survive in a brutal and unforgiving world. The supporting cast as a whole also excels and everyone manages to have their moment.
Overall, Spin The Wheel is a sometimes intense and sporadically gripping apocalyptic thriller that just fails to deliver on its promise. While the concept is intriguing, the one-room setup can’t sustain its 106-minute run time and the audience is left a little unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Despite everything we get that is positive from Spin The Wheel, we are left wanting a little bit more from it.