Movies: Bloody Hell (2020)

I think I speak for most horror fans when I say that there are few things in life more gratifying and joy-inducing than stumbling across a movie pretty much randomly that you’d never heard of, and discovering that it’s one of the most entertaining things you’ve seen in ages. Such was the case with 2020’s Bloody Hell, which I noticed had popped up on Shudder a couple weeks back and had subsequently earned that oh-so-rarefied five-skull rating. As I normally do, I read no further than the one-sentence synopsis—which in this case was, “A man with a mysterious past flees the country to escape his own personal hell… only to arrive somewhere much, much, much worse”—and then I hit play on that sucker and soaked in the awesomeness.

Bloody Hell was written by Robert Benjamin, in his screenwriting debut, and directed by Australian filmmaker Alister Grierson, who only has a handful of films under his belt, including the 2011 3D cave-diving film Sanctum. Don’t let the lack of previous credits fool you, though; this movie has wit, style, and hilarity for days, and features some fantastically gruesome practical effects and creative kills. Imagine, if you will, the movie Hostel as directed by Sam Raimi, with maybe a bit of Fight Club thrown into the mix, and you’re part of the way there.

Bloody Hell is an action horror comedy that was shot in Australia, standing in for both Boise, Idaho and Helsinki, Finland; it works because much of the film is set indoors. Though the script is tight and laugh-out-loud funny, the real star of the show here is lead actor Ben O’Toole, an Australian flawlessly playing an American, whose charisma is off the charts and whose comedic timing is impeccable. The guy gives off some real Robert Downey Jr. energy in the best possible way, and he really needs some more and bigger roles immediately; other than this film, he’s done some Australian TV and had supporting roles in Hacksaw Ridge and 12 Strong, but he’s really got that leading man charm. The only other leading role I’ve seen him in aside from this movie was 2018’s Nekrotronic, which was also pretty great, now that I’m thinking about it.

In my opinion, Bloody Hell is much better gone into without any knowledge of what it’s about or where it’s going, so if you want to read any further, either go see the movie and then come back, or continue at your own peril. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will be discussing some plot points that you might not want to know in advance. That’s my final warning.

So Ben O’Toole plays Rex, a military veteran who apparently has a crush/flirtation thing going on with a woman named Maddy (Ashlee Lollback), who works at a bank. One day, while Rex is visiting Maddy at her teller window, a group of four armed guys wearing masks busts in and begins a violent robbery. Rex, with the help of his previous military training and his wisecracking conscience (manifested as another version of himself that he has discussions with), is able to get the drop on the criminals and ends up wasting them and saving almost all of the employees and customers of the bank, although his vigilante tactics do result in one innocent person getting killed. Because of this, Rex is arrested, and the DA offers him a deal: he can either serve eight years in prison and walk away scot-free, or take his chances with a trial and risk getting twenty years. He takes the eight, and serves his time.

After he gets out, he has to deal with being something of a celebrity; footage of his bank heroics went viral, and while most people think he’s a badass on par with John Wick, there are some who still blame him for getting that one innocent woman killed. He’s also somewhat heartbroken by the fact that Maddy, whose life he saved that day, only visited him in prison once, to tell him she never wanted to see him again. So to get away from the hoopla and the memories, Rex decides to leave the country for a while, deciding on Finland simply because while he was in his prison cell, he shot three spitballs at a map and they all inexplicably landed there, as though his fate had already been decided.

Upon arriving in Finland, he is immediately eyeballed by a very creepy Finnish couple, who a friendly bystander informs him are planning to “get” him. Thinking the pair just recognized him from the news, he ignores them, but when he gets a cab outside the airport, the driver gasses him, and some indeterminate amount of time later, Rex finds himself hanging from a ceiling beam in a darkened basement…with one of his legs missing from the knee down.

From there, Rex and his conscience/alter-ego must figure out a way to get out of this predicament before it gets any worse. See, it turns out that Rex has been abducted by a freaky Finnish family who have a grotesque son with some very specific dietary requirements, and Rex is going to have to use his wits, as well as some help from the seemingly “normal” daughter of the family, to keep from being portioned off as snacks piece by piece.

This movie was an absolute riot, an exuberantly fun and fast-paced ride with loads of well-executed black humor, some great gore set pieces, and a stellar musical score. The interactions between Rex and his snarkier conscience had me in stitches, and I also loved the wildly amusing chemistry between Rex and the weird family’s daughter Alia (played by Meg Fraser in her film debut). The film is stylishly shot, effectively tense, and expertly paced, with clever inside jokes and hilarious movie references, and winning performances all around. Simply put, it’s just a hell of a good time, made me giddily happy, and is most definitely recommended for all fans of horror comedies and just fun movies in general.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.

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