There is a reason for almost everything when it comes to making a blockbuster. Every prop choice, costume choice, and nuance in acting is done to flesh out characters, add poignancy to scenes, and to add hidden layers that people go back and watch for years to come. One of the ways in which many films add tension is through scenes that have tension weaved into them – such as playing a game of bingo. How are bingo scenes used in films to create a certain feeling throughout the film?
Bingo has been used to comic effect in certain films. The sequel to the Martin Lawrence classic, Big Momma’s House 2 (2006), where he returns as FBI Agent Malcolm Turner in his ‘Big Momma’ suit has a scene that takes place in a bingo hall. Turner’s aim is to extract some information in disguise, using the bingo game as a distraction for the conversation. But the tension also riles up some of the other players, including a woman who accuses Turner of ‘stealing her man.’ Bingo is used in this scene to add a fast-paced, tense environment – with a hint of humor- which helps move the story along.
Similarly, Jackass’s Bad Grandpa (2013) spoof, where prankster Johnny Knoxville dons prosthetics to appear as an older gent, tips some bingo tropes on their head as he drinks the dabber fluid and makes a cocktail in the middle of a bingo game. The seriousness of the game for some of the onlookers helps to feed into the comedy, as Knoxville continues to do increasingly bizarre things.
Bingo scenes have been used for darker purposes, however. The pop culture hit The Babadook (2014) – an Australian horror film full of deeper meaning – features a scene where the protagonist is running a bingo game in a care home. The psychological thriller is brimming with tension and the scene helps to add to that, making it feel that the characters are stuck – both in the care home and in the predicament with the Babadook.
The reason bingo works immediately to evoke emotion and audience understanding in film is that audiences are familiar with it. The tension remains, even when the people playing are actors on a screen. Similarly, this helped the proliferation of online bingo as the tension from the physical game has been adequately transferred using methods that help it thrive online, such as progressive jackpots.
For the overall winner bingo slots often utilize a progressive jackpot, which enables all players to contribute to a prize fund. Not only does this offer a real-time assessment of how much money could be won in the jackpot, but it means that the games have an added layer of tension.
Bingo is a useful trope in film to evoke feelings of tension and to provide a backdrop that doesn’t require as much scene-building. Whether the bingo scene is one for comic effect, where the characters are going against what you might otherwise be doing in a bingo game, or one to up the ante for excitement later in the story, it can be useful to set the tone.