Of all the films I wanted to see at Nightstream, Bloody Hell was the one I knew the least about. The North American premiere of this film from Australian director Alister Grierson had a fairly short plot summary which seemed intriguing enough to check out, but I was not at all prepared for what I was going to get.
“In this relentlessly energetic, pitch-black horror-comedy, an ex-bank robber fleeing the country after a video of him goes viral, heads to Helsinki only to find there’s something in store for him there that is much more difficult to escape.”
If I were to be completely honest, I would suggest you read the aforementioned, see if it sparks your interest, and then have you go in just as blind as I did. I’d just tell you that, as bank robber Rex, Ben O’Toole is by turns charming, hilarious, and remarkably clever — and walk away to let you experience this on your own. Revealing anything about the plot really ruins all the fun – which isn’t to say that the film is all about plot twists. I watched another film (which you’ll read the review of later this week) where that was the case, and it pretty much ruined the experience for me.
In the case of Bloody Hell, it’s more the idea that getting to watch this and thinking it’s one thing – the torture porn-y aspects of the trailer and the vagueness of the plot summary leaving you to make some serious assumptions – and getting something else entirely. I can say, categorically, that even though it’s an exceptional, unbroken series of ferocious encounters, Bloody Hell also manages to display some of the sharpest comedic timing to be found in horror. It’s unlike anything else released this year, and wickedly brilliant in its execution.
Interweaving aspects of romance, heroism, dark basement tortures, family secrets, fate, and intestinal fortitude, Bloody Hell never settles on being one kind of film. I mean that 100% as a compliment, because the fact that Robert Benjamin’s script never hews directly to any one kind of genre means that director Grierson has to balance all of these elements in a manner which doesn’t result in a hodge-podge mishmash of buffet-style cinematic fuckery, leaving the viewer confused and out of sorts.
What’s on display here is a film which never stops moving. It feels as though everyone involved understood the idea that stopping on a dime was never a possibility, because stopping means you have to restart. That’s where seams can be found. And when you have seams, holes and tears can start to occur. What Benjamin’s script and Grierson’s directing does, as well as the acting from everyone involved, (especially O’Toole in the lead role) is pivot from one point to the next.
Bloody Hell is like watching an amazing Kung Fu master. Each move flows into the next, with each hit or strike coming on the heels of the one before it — and leading into the one which follows, and so on. From start to finish, it’s a film which never stops presenting the viewer with something new. You’ll laugh, gasp — and I swear at one point I yelled out so loudly, my wife had to mute her Zoom call in the next room. See it as soon as you can.
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