Minimalistic horror films are my jam. Give me a character in one location, with a small cast, and a tight plot and you have me enamored. Bloody Hell (2020), from director Alister Grierson and screenwriter Robert Benjamin executes a simple story to near perfection. The film stars Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer, Meg Fraser, and Ashlee Lollback.
In Bloody Hell, Rex is a man with a mysterious past who flees the country to escape his own personal hell only to arrive somewhere much worse when he crosses paths with a Sawyer family feeling in Finland. Completely alone in a different country, Rex makes every effort he can to survive his horrifying situation as a captive and does so by turning to his personified conscience to help guide him through it. At just 94 minutes, the film is a mix of gory horror, physical violence, psychological twists, and a dark comedy that works extremely well.
With a tight script, it’s hard to discuss Bloody Hell without spoiling the film. A spin on the cannibalistic family, what really separates the film from others is Rex and how he interacts with, well, Rex. O’Toole is a phenomenal presence on-screen, personifying rage and hopelessness by playing two versions of one character at the same time. This is especially apparent when he works through his situation in the basement. We see a free Rex talk to a captive Rex and verbalize through the process of trying to figure out his situation. But the best parts of his personified conscience is when the family gets involved and how we see a rage-filled Rex screaming in their faces as they move through their brutal motions because well, he isn’t really there.
O’Toole is playing two characters at one time and while we see him as a person experiencing trauma and trying to talk himself through his survival, he slowly reveals the bad ways in which his conscience manifests itself. Is Rex someone to root for? Or is Rex someone you think is okay to be eaten by his captors? It’s a fine line that O’Toole walks well with charisma and charm. This is partly due to his physicality in the action elements of the film and also the way he manages two parts of himself.
The dark humor of Bloody Hell is a unique thing. Montages of searching people’s bags, Rex repeating bad oneliners, and more push the film’s success. Humor is a constant throughout, and while it is hard to define, it’s fascinatingly employed by cutaways and changes in the score.
In fact, the pure fun of this film is in the booming soundtrack that may not fit what you expect but perfectly jars the audience into a different tone. In some moments, the loud jovial music comes when the dark and damp basement scene cuts to a bright Finnish countryside, and others appear when it’s scoring an action hero moment. Some elements have a bright moment in terms of score accompanied by someone dancing in a field with a severed foot. There is more to Rex than meets the eye and the way Bloody Hell weaves in flashbacks and moments of absurdity works both from a comedic standpoint and a storytelling one.
The violence in the film is creative and the special effects around it make it even better. While no one besides Rex gets any sort of fleshing out (pun intended) it’s not the worst thing. And with a perfect length for a Friday popcorn horror night, it doesn’t need any added story. Now, we do have to talk about how constant usage of disfigured characters in media is not only predictable but a trope that can and should be retired. While that discussion is for another piece, it’s important to note as it plays a role in the film’s conclusion.
Overall, Bloody Hell (2020) is bloody good. It’s hilariously scored, wonderfully acted, and a dark comedic good time with a little cannibalism thrown in. O’Toole is a fascinating lead with a score to push the action, the horror, and the humor moments he’s involved in.
Bloody Hell (2020) is in select theaters, Drive-Ins, and On Demand January 14, 2021 and on DVD/Blu-Ray January 19, 2021.
Overall, Bloody Hell is bloody good. It’s hilariously scored, wonderfully acted, and a dark comedic good time with a little cannibalism thrown in. O’Toole is a fascinating lead with a score to push the action, the horror, and the humor moments he’s involved in.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.