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Review: Brutal but Funny Horror Film “Bloody Hell” Premieres at Nightstream

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Review: Brutal but Funny Horror Film "Bloody Hell" Premieres at Nightstream

Yes, some films grab you by the throat. Bloody Hell, an Australian horror film directed by Alister Grierson and written by Robert Benjamin, is a brutally fun film filled with action, comedy, gore, and romance that you didn’t know you needed in your life, but you do.

Rex, played by Ben O’Toole, finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery while flirting with a teller. He’s surprisingly trained in arms, combat, and it appears—psychological warfare. He snags a gun and fights back like John Wick or John McClane in Die Hard until he reaches an impasse. He wins but makes the poor decision to shoot a robber in the balls. Although Rex saved dozens of lives, he used wanton violence, and for his crime, a jury sends him to jail for eight years.

When he gets out, you’d think the rest of his life would be gravy. Wrong, he’s a celebrity of sorts because a video of him shooting bank robbers went viral. Some hail him a hero, but he doesn’t like the attention. He leaves the country to escape and wakes up in a house of horror at the mercy of a psychotic Finnish family. He’s chained up, and there’s a pig’s head hanging from a ceiling, which seems to suggest he’s next.

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Bloody Hell is a horror-thriller, but it has a lot of action and comedy in it. Ben O’Toole, as Rex, is fantastic. He plays a charming, deadly tough guy, and that’s not an easy role to play. It’s wonderful to see an actor who can do both action and comedy. The best thing about O’Toole’s performance is how much fun he has ending the bank-robbery. He is at ease in turmoil because he’s experienced action before. He’s amused when the bank robbers challenge him because they’re rank amateurs. The bad guys are nervous when he comes after them because he’s enjoying himself.

But Rex is a good guy, mostly. He’s a cocky, daredevil type who thrives on adrenaline. He’s an anti-hero who uses his skills to kill bad guys, and the bad guys are really bad. So when he wakes up in a house of horror, we wonder—what’s going to happen? Well, if you wake up in a horror house in a genre film, there’s bound to be a family of monsters lurking. The monsters in Bloody Hell are a Finnish family weaned on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They’re horrific and, at times, hilarious.

Bloody Hell is a window to toxic families. Toxic families always have a scapegoat—and a golden child. In this case, the mother (Caroline Craig) spoils her brood of boys but despises her only daughter, Alia (a wonderful Meg Fraser). And the golden child, well, I’ll let you find out about him for yourself. He’s a nasty piece of work though he loves Alia like a mother. Bloody Hell has a sweet side as well because romance, believe it or not, sprouts in this hell hole. Rex finds a person who needs him and not many people have needed him. It’s a brutal film but it’s a love story.

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Bloody Hell’s screenplay is playfully self-aware—Rex has several one-liners, and it’s funny to see him struggle to come up with cooler ones to say before he murders someone. Sure, it’s meta and could be seen as cutesy (in lesser hands), but it works well here. The meta jokes parody the action-genre in a way that doesn’t feel self-indulgent. Rex makes fun of action stars while playing an action star in his own horror film.

Like Ash in Evil Dead II, Rex has a morbid sense of humor, and when he faces death (or something far worse), he jokes to relieve the tension. There’s a reason why gallow humor exists—it’s a way to make light of horror to take away its power. It’s a coping mechanism for those who faced horror: doctors, morticians, ambulance drivers, veterans, prisoners, fire-fighters, and those who have survived trauma. People who judge gallow humor perhaps don’t know how privileged that position is. Rex was born in the gallows, and so was Alia.

Bloody Hell is so well-directed and the film has a killer cast. Some people could nitpick and say the editing interferes with the pacing. But it’s a good thing because it shows how invested we were in the opening scenes. The bank robbery was so intense; we were mad when it cut to the future. We wanted to see Rex in action—never cut away from Rex! Overall, the editing works quite well to heighten the mystery.

Bloody Hell is a lot of fun; it’s funny and bloody. It’s my pick for best feature at NightstreamIf you like anti-heroes and enjoy dark comedy, you’ll love it.

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