Directed by Alister Grierson
Written by Robert Benjamin
Starring Ben O’Toole, Meg Fraser, Caroline Craig
Premiering at the supergroup virtual festival, Nightstream, director Alister Grierson’s genre mashup Bloody Hell is one of the surprise discoveries found in the glorious pile of genre gems amassed by the combined efforts of the Overlook Film Fest, Brooklyn Horror Film Fest, North Bend, BUFF and Popcorn Frights. You wouldn’t think that a heist film, a prison movie and a Nordic fable could combine to form an electric Franken-flick, but Robert Benjamin’s break away screenplay is greater than the sum of its parts.
Waiting nonchalantly in a bank line, Rex Coen (Ben O’Toole) has a crush on one of the tellers. His timing is a little off so he motions to the woman behind him to go next just so he can make sure he gets to flirt a little with Maddy (Ashlee Lollback), who seems perfectly fine with his advances. Unknowingly, Rex has already changed his destiny when suddenly multiple devil masked robbers burst in, shots firing. In an explosive display of vigilante justice, Rex takes them down in a video that goes viral, eventually leading to eight years of jail time thanks to an innocent woman accidentally being killed in the process.
In what seems like a random act, Rex decides to start over in Finland after shooting a spitball on a map. Whether he’s destined for something greater or not, Rex unbelievably finds himself hanging in a basement with half of his leg cutoff having fallen victim to a crazed Finnish family that feeds victims to their cannibal ogre of a son, Olli (David Hill). Luckily, the entire family doesn’t seem completely insane when older sister Alia (Meg Fraser) shows Rex a little mercy giving him hope that he can actually get out of this alive and with his other three limbs still intact.
There’s an underlying question here: Is Rex a misunderstood hero or a danger to society who’s on the verge of insanity? To help answer that, Ben O’Toole actually plays two split personality versions of Rex – one that’s panicking (understandably) and one that’s free to roam around the basement and inside Rex’s head in order to help him escape. O’ Toole is simply a super star here in one of the best dual performances in recent horror history. Really, with Bloody Hell you get two performances and two movies in one. Reworking sequences from the bank heist and his prison time, Rex’s life flashes back before his eyes. It’s a disjointed time jump that works within the already broken structure introduced which winds up helping O’Toole’s double performance that may have been out of place in a more straightforward plot. The flashbacks and violence don’t go so far that you’d call Bloody Hell Tarantino-esque but it does feel like a dog-eared pulp novel.
Grierson’s madcap melee has the frenetic energy of most Australian genre output but the whacked out premise is more in line with the Ozploitation delights that are usually saved for the international export crowd. The movie is so bonkers that the title seems appropriate. The powers that be must have struggled to actually come up with a working title and, after watching Bloody Hell, I really can’t think of a better one either.
Badges are still on sale for Nightstream HERE! The majority of the films and events are still available to view on-demand on the Eventive platform!
The twists and turns of the Australian export Bloody Hell may be too disorienting for most, but Ben O’Toole’s star turn as two separate versions of the same character should not be overlooked.