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We all have days, weeks or months when life seems to offer us nothing but hassle, bad luck and pain. Most of us hope these days, weeks and months quickly pass, and don’t turn into years of turmoil. However, for others, they simply ride the wave, seeking the best bits from an otherwise shitty situation. It’s fair to say that ex-soldier Rex (Ben O’Toole) sits in the latter camp; his life a mix of poor luck, positive attitude and well-meaning intentions that don’t always turn out well. In fact, he has only just been released from prison, after intervening in a violent bank robbery—his actions saving a whole host of lives, while violently dispensing with the robbers. However, unfortunately for Rex, his actions also led to the accidental killing of a bank worker hiding in a cupboard.
But, as Rex would say (I think) ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs’. So with the prison gates opened, Rex is keen to leave his past behind, and make a new start in his home town of Boise Idaho; unaware of his new celebrity status. His heroic actions in foiling the robbery plastered across every magazine and news channel. Now, for Rex, this newfound celebrity status is less than appetising, but luckily he has a plan; one forged in prison with a spitball and map. And just weeks after his release Rex is ready to enact it, booking a flight to Helsinki; escaping the United States for the peace of Finland.
Unfortunately, for Rex, his habit of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time is hard to shrug off. His arrival in Finland greeted by a deadly taxi journey that results in him being strung up in a family basement in the middle of nowhere. His initial thoughts of escape hampered by the fact that one of his legs appears to be missing. While at the same time, above him, a secluded family prepares to feed a once human beast with a taste for flesh.
In following Rex’s journey and subsequent realisation of the horror sitting at the heart of a quiet but disturbed Finnish family. Director Alister Grierson provides us with an engaging and fresh horror/comedy. One that owes much to the dark humour found at the heart of Raimi’s Evil Dead Part II (1987), while equally riffing off many of Stephen King’s creations, from Misery to Skeleton Crew. However, what brings Bloody Hell to life, is its combination of captivity and folk horror. With both sub-genres held firmly in place by the engaging and dynamic performance of Ben O’Toole. His ability to hold each scene powered by a magnetic, eccentric charm; the classic template of the hero mixed with selfishness and insecurity. Meanwhile, the artistic decision to take his inner thoughts and place them into a physical version of himself is ingenious in both construct and delivery.
Equally assured is the development of the family unit sitting at the heart of the horror. Here, there are no superficial and lazy stereotypes. With each family member given space to flesh out their place in the landscape and history of a family unit turned sour. Meanwhile, the once human beast at the heart of the horror remains in the shadows until the final act. His presence confirmed by growls, thunderous footsteps and fear in the isolated house. And while the comedy may not quite hit the heights of Two Heads Creek (2020), Robert Benjamin’s script is none the less nothing short of genius. His intelligent use of horror past and present coupled with a smart mashup of horror sub-genres that shouldn’t work, but do, to dazzling effect.
Bloody Hell is a film that understands the importance of its characters. The blood and gore essential, yet secondary to both its script and performances. The result, a deliciously dark slice of horror/comedy that has ‘cult status’ written all over it. And I for one have a sneaking suspicion that this may not be the last we see of Rex, or his new and slightly damaged Finnish girlfriend Alia (played by the brilliant Meg Fraser). The film’s final scenes opening up a new world of possibilities. Within a movie that is, without doubt, a bloody brilliant slice of inventive indie horror.
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