Bloody Hell (2020) | Directed by Alister Grierson
Australia | USA | Colour | 93 Minutes
Written by Robert Benjamin | Starring Ben O’Toole, Meg Fraser, Caroline Craig
Meet Rex Coen (Ben O’Toole), a convicted felon who has just spent the last eight years in prison after a bank heist went off-kilter… You see, the mask-wearing misfits didn’t realise Rex was in the building, and he had no problem fucking up their day. Wrong place, wrong fucking time!
Unfortunately, laying down vigilante justice has its drawbacks, and a civilian was caught in the crossfire…
Also unbeknownst to Rex, the bank’s CCTV footage was uploaded to the internet, making him infamous in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. To some, he is a viral sensation – the badass that prevented the Boise bank robbery – but to others, he is the selfish murderous “psycho twat” that put innocent lives in danger. Either way, his subsequent release has resulted in unwanted fame and attention from both paparazzi and social media clout-chasers. And thus an extended European vacation is in order. The destination? Helsinki, Finland! Selected by random using spitballs and a world map.
Rex’s arrival is met with no fanfare… Pure unadulterated bliss! At least for a brief moment… Upon waking after a taxi ride goes awry, Rex finds himself drugged, beaten, and tied up in the basement of a Finnish family. Dangling from his wrists, Rex attempts to keep balance, which is proving to be quite difficult since his lower right leg has been amputated! To deal with the newfound circumstances Rex finds himself in, he turns to his personified conscience; a wisecracking version of himself that quickly starts formulating a plan of escape.
“If you can’t undo those knots by dawn, it’s going to be big trouble in little Finland.”
Rex has yet to meet his hosts… He has no idea why he is being held captive, why he is still alive, and why they took his leg! That is until he meets Alia (Meg Fraser), the scorned daughter/sister whose parents/siblings have an unfamiliar family predicament that she wants absolutely nothing to do with; her deformed brother stubbornly will only feast on human flesh! Rex isn’t the first to be presented on a silver platter (literally!) to Pati (Caleb Enoka), and he won’t be the last unless he can get the fuck out of Helsinki!
“My concern is getting back to the life I had. Getting the fuck out of this place. And getting back to my friends in the good ol’ U S of A where we don’t fucking EAT people! Capeesh?”
Mixing the hi-octane, stylized action of Chad Stahelski’s John Wick with the comedic horror sensibilities of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II, Bloody Hell becomes its own demented beast; an ambitious blending of genres whose ostensible European setting reminded me of the grotesque fairy tales of Italian poet Giambattista Basile and the Brothers Grimm.
Indeed, mad scientist/screenwriter Robert Benjamin frequently twists the most common genre tropes, taking the audience to some unexpected places; from fast-paced gun-fights to slow-burning terror, all accompanied by Brian Cachia suspense-driven musical score. Add a splash of Benjamin’s humour into the mixture and – not forgetting Alister Grierson’s talents behind the camera and Ben O’Toole’s acting chops in front of the lens – you have the perfect combination for a midnight movie.
Just like Bruce Campbell’s portrayal of flawed anti-hero Ash Williams in Army of Darkness, Rex Coen is kind of reprehensible. He shows no real remorse for the reckless endangerment that resulted in his almost decade-long imprisonment, but you can’t help but like this guy due to O’Toole’s devilishly charismatic performance, split between his psychical self and nonphysical personification; a reflection of what the media and public perceive him to be. Indeed, O’Toole carries the comedic weight of Bloody Hell on his capable shoulders; delivering highly quotable interactions with himself that belong in the horror lexicon.
“Let me ask you something, why did you pick Finland, huh? Of all the fucking places on the planet, why Finland? Why did you choose FUCKING FINLAND! … FUCK!”
The rest of the cast is also mesmerising under Grierson’s direction – particularly newcomer Meg Fraser who provides one of the sweetest, most charming moments of the film; cleaning Rex’s residual limb no less! Through their respective characters, Caroline Craig and Matthew Sunderland provide lethal venom and vitriol; tackling the material with a seriousness often reserved for more high profile thrillers, rather than a genre movie oozing with black humour.
Unpredictable on first viewing, I do feel guilty for perhaps sharing too much above, but Bloody Hell is the type of popcorn entertainment you will find yourself waxing lyrical about long after the closing credits. Repeated viewings are also encouraged to catch the various references to other cult classics that Benjamin has sprinkled throughout his script; ensuring Bloody Hell has a permanent place in your collection, between Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste.