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Bloody Hell (Arclight Films)

BLOODY HELL (2020) review

Neil reviews upcoming Aussie pitch-black horror-comedy BLOODY HELL. Watched as part of the NIGHTSTREAM Festival.

Synopsis

A man with a mysterious past flees the country to escape his own personal hell – only to arrive somewhere much, much worse.

Review

I love film festivals. The exposure to films which are normally outside your scope or the accidental discovery of an utter classic is beyond worth the ticket price.

Bloody Hell is absolutely one of the single greatest discoveries I have ever made at a festival. Sharp witted, tense and perfectly twisted it absolutely pushes the boundaries of horror-comedy.

The setup is brilliant, Rex (Ben O’Toole) is visiting a credit union with the ulterior motive of speaking to Maddy (Ashlee Lollback). There’s some visual flirtation between the two, it perfectly feels run-of-the-mill and mundane. The moment is shattered by a group of bank robbers and immediately Bloody Hell begins to spiral.

Screenwriter Robert Benjamin builds the scene with some relative normality. I felt lulled in to a false sense of security. As soon as we transition from Rex’s attempt to save the hostages to what comes next the level of surrealism escalates quickly.

O’Toole has to shoulder the entire narrative of the film. Playing both his literal and subconscious self. It would be enough to say he played the part of hero-cum-celebrity-turned-victim well. But to also play his more emotionally raw inner self at the same time is beyond award worthy. The acerbic banter between the two is a highlight of Benjamin’s script.

Director Alister Grierson has an incredibly grip on both the tone and style of the film. From the moment Rex is released and discovers his new celebrity status the comedy beats are adeptly setup and knocked down. When Rex first spots his face on the cover of a magazine Bloody Hell begins to twist itself in to a truly unique entity.

It feels rare for a film like this to perfectly balance both the horror and the comedy. Looking back on films like Zombieland its easy to see that it strayed more towards the comedy. Whilst a film like Evil Dead leans in to the gore. Bloody Hell not only has an abundance of both elements, its able to capably portray both simultaneously.

The setup in Finland, having Rex kidnapped by the awkwardly strange local family with a dark secret, is also a great source of comedy. Each of the family members brings something different to the table, from dumb and dumber humour to cultural satire. The hits really keep on coming throughout the 90+ minute runtime.

Bloody Hell moves with a brisk pace too. It feels like the perfect runtime. Ending without leaving the viewer wanting more. It also doesn’t outstay its welcome by running too long. There are enough plot twists to keep it thoroughly entertaining and its characters are so well written that there’s a level of nuance unheard of in horror-comedy.

Whilst O’Toole is the standout, the entire cast of Bloody Hell is well placed. Meg Fraser’s Alia brings an emotional depth to the story. Her conviction to playing the part of the captive daughter ups the already high stakes, dialling the film up to an eleven.

Set design, special effects makeup and the soundscape of Bloody Hell are all well beyond what I had expected for an Aussie indie flick. I say that purely from the perspective of not having seen all that many of them. Really Bloody Hell is in the same class as any Hollywood blockbuster horror and it deserves to be there.

Verdict

Bloody Hell is bloody brilliant. A tense but laugh-out-loud experience which gives pitch-black horror-comedy a whole new meaning.

9/10

Directed by Alister Grierson, Bloody Hell stars Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer, Meg Fraser and Ashlee Lollback.


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