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REVIEW: Bloody Hell (2021)

The trend in horror right now seems to track towards the high-brow and intellectual: what people who don’t tend to watch a lot of scary movies refer to as “elevated” horror. But this undermines the lifeblood of the genre: a schlocky, gruesome, endlessly inventive murderfest. Bloody Hell is a wildly entertaining B-movie of the highest caliber, one that highlights all of the silliness and over-the-top blood spurts that define what we might call horror comfort food.

After going full John Wick during a bank robbery and being imprisoned for eight years, Rex (Ben O’Toole) is ready for a fresh start. With the aid of a trusty spitball, he makes the decision to begin a new life in Finland, of all places. As he makes his journey, he’s joined by a stalwart companion: another Rex, the human personification of his conscience who, you know, really just wants the best for him. But he’s only in Finland for about five minutes before he attracts the attention of a murderous family of cannibals. Which, honestly, is just typical.

Bloody Hell resists every urge to take itself too seriously. It’s dark, of course: we’re talking about humans eating other humans, after all. But it’s never grim. It hops between the events of the fateful bank robbery that changed Rex’s life and his current predicament with reckless abandon, using stylised, frenetic cuts to pack its slight hour and a half runtime with a tremendous amount of information. In fact, an argument could be made that Bloody Hell tries to cover too much ground, with Rex’s catastrophic trip to Finland, the bank robbery that he single-handedly foils, his ensuing stay in prison, and even hints of his former career as a soldier in Afghanistan all vying for prominence in what is really a very limited space. To say nothing of the back story to explain this bizarre Finnish family, who have turned to murder in order to satiate their weirdo troll of a son’s constant hunger for human flesh. But ultimately, it’s hard to hold that against Bloody Hell, which doesn’t feel as though it’s been bogged down by being overloaded with content. If anything, the chaotic narrative makes it more fun.

The fact that Rex has his conscience with him to interact with throughout this very trying experience is crucial to the success of Bloody Hell. Their banter gives it a sense of energy and inventiveness, as the two Rexes work together to escape. If our put-upon hero was all alone in a creepy Finnish basement, this would be a very different horror film, something significantly more harrowing and serious. A second Rex keeps things moving at a click, never letting us forget the gravity of the situation, but also allowing for brief moments of humor. Throughout this ordeal, Rex is less traumatised than he is…exasperated?

For other characters, this might be the single most terrifying experience of their lives, but for Rex, there’s a pervasive feeling that this is just one more goddamned thing for him to deal with. He approaches being kidnapped by cannibals with the steely resourcefulness of an action hero rather than a terrified victim. Bloody Hell takes on the tenor of a Die Hard or Rambo, endlessly imaginative in its fight sequences and the ingenious ways Rex comes up with to protect himself. It’s completely over-the-top and gruesome, but there’s something appealing about the hastily cobbled together weaponry and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude Rex evokes. It feels almost like what Kevin from Home Alone would come up with, were he accidentally left behind at the mercy of some murderous cannibals by his parents.

But talking about all of this is neglecting the second lead of Bloody Hell: Alia (Meg Fraser), the cannibal family’s kind-hearted, much put-upon daughter. Yet another subplot of Blood Hell deals with toxic family dynamics, especially when parents who have a golden child (here, the creepy troll baby) who can do no wrong, while the rest of the siblings are expected to spend their lives catering to them. Alia is perhaps the biggest victim of both Bloody Hell’s villains and its brisk runtime — we see her trauma, but there’s just not enough space to develop her as a character beyond being sheltered, dominated by her family, and generally a nice person. Nevertheless, Fraser makes the most of her screen time and puts in a winning performance as Alia.

Ultimately, the biggest thing Bloody Hell has going for its completely absurd sense of fun. Ben O’Toole is charming in his dual roles, making both Rexes feel distinct from one another and engaging in their own ways. It has plenty of blood-splattering violence that is wild and outlandish, with gleeful creativity in making a weapon out of just about anything and taking its visual cues as much from Tarantino as it does from Raimi. Its off-beat humor and unrepentant ghastliness make it a delight to watch, chopped up bits of human flesh and all.


1 Comment

  1. Rex’s alter ego/conscience overacts wildy and it’s annoying and physically punishing because he SHOUTS!! all the time. Otherwise it’s a movie that just about ‘okay’.

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