"Time to die, homeboy."
The line between brilliant and absurd is a fine one. Many films struggle to determine the right balance, wavering between the two as they work to allow for a coexistence that rarely pans out as planned. Alister Grierson's Bloody Hell is an unapologetic genre film that embraces its identity, sifting through the chaos, planting itself firmly on that proverbial line while embellishing both the crazy and formidable emotions that come with it.
Part comedy, part horror, Bloody Hell rarely stays on the straight and narrow, constantly veering off-center as it entrusts to its path, fearless of its future and hardly mindful of its past. Ben O'Toole is perfectly cast as Rex, a man who tends to act on impulse as he appears to spend much of his life suffering the consequences of his decisions.
When Rex saves the day during an unexpected bank robbery, his status skyrockets, but an innocent life is lost during his charade, sending him behind bars. The event forces him to miss out on his girl, and eight years later, he can't enjoy his freedom given the public's continued fascination with his story. Fate is sending him to Finland, but waking up in a basement, balancing on one leg, wasn't the "escape" he had envisioned.
Primarily taking place throughout a single night, Bloody Hell keeps things simple while somehow still offering up quite a few surprises. Though the film features a family of characters, O'Toole is undeniably the driving force behind the story. The film is only as good as his performance, and thankfully, he delivers every second of the way. Embodying the humor and living the fear, he offers up a plethora of emotions, working to keep the energy up, the story moving, and an escape in close sight.
Dark, dingy, and a bit historical, the atmospheric tone is on point from start to finish. Grierson understands the film's identity, playing to the extravagant antics as he works to overdo and over enunciate the story's primary features. Never shying away from the violence, we get a film that unapologetically pushes the envelope, fully embracing its genre tag as it ignites a sense of camp with an undertone of mature style and visual aesthetic.
Likely completed on a tight budget, Bloody Hell never plays it safe, instead driving fast ahead as it combats its lackluster villain backstory with a tremendous third act. The final moments reminded me of Jason Statham's terror-filled tirade in 2006's Crank, though here we find ourselves confined to a single house, the tirade lasting only minutes. It's a quick blurb, one that is over before we fully realize what we are watching. In some ways, it's disappointing, but in others, I'm thankful for the slow build.
Meg Fraser and Caroline Craig offer critical supporting work, but they find themselves overshadowed by O'Toole. Though the story isn't anything remotely unique (think Hostel with a slight twist), Grierson's stylistic approach allows the film to thrive. Granted, many will dislike it. Fuck them. This film is a helluva good time!
*This film is available via theaters, drive-ins and VOD platforms.