Blending horror and comedy isn’t always the easiest concoction. When it’s done right we’re treated to such genre mixtures as Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Evil Dead 2, but with every success comes twice as many failures, with lesser productions confused as to what constitutes being called an “homage”.
Bloody Hell, a Brisbane-made, internationally-set horror comedy (it crosses boarders between Boise, Idaho and Helsinki, Finland), is one of the better attempts at humorous horror. It doesn’t always quite stick its landing as it, at times, goes a bit too broad, but director Alister Grierson (Sanctum) deserves points for injecting comedy where he can in a narrative that ultimately includes such brutal elements as cannibalism.
It starts off on a much different note though, adopting an action temperament as we focus on Rex (Ben O’Toole, all charm and no body fat), a charismatic yet impulsive former military man whose heroic nature to foil an armed robbery results in an 8-year prison sentence, on the account of unfortunate collateral damage. After his release, where in Boise he’s something of a local celebrity, he hops a plane to Finland (just why he chose Finland is one of the many quirks screenwriter Robert Benjamin injects into proceedings) and, initially, enjoys the anonymity that comes with a new city.
That feeling of freedom lasts all of literal seconds though as he’s abducted only moments after getting into his taxi, awaking (prematurely) in a suitably seedy horror-approved basement where he’s a limb down and completely at a loss as to why. We’re not really privy as an audience as to why either – although there’s no surprise as to who’s behind it following some very suspicious airport activity – but the film doesn’t really need an explanation for us to be invested.
As broad as the film is at times, it at least executes certain comedic beats with relative success, managing to make the horrific imagery of Rex hanging from the ceiling – with one of his feet missing to boot – somewhat light, thanks in large part to Grierson’s interpretation of the very brutal material; who knew cannibalism could evoke such laughter?
Perhaps what is most successful though is the performance from O’Toole, or technically performances as both Rex and the physical manifestation of his conscious (ego?) serve the actor fittingly throughout as he banters back and forth with himself – even if the face of certain death – which, in turn, adds a layer of surrealism to an already outlandish narrative.
Whilst never technically scary in the standard “jump scare” manner, more terrifying on a thematic level, Bloody Hell‘s genre blending allows to it at least stand out from the crowd of other small-scale flicks that hoped cashing in on the “torture porn” craze would result in success in spite of a lack of on-screen substance.
About Bloody Hell
Fame. Prison? Freedom! Vacation?! Europe!! Random Basement??? Hot Girl!!! Demented Family. Wait… “WTF Happened To My ***?!?!?!” Welcome to Rex Coen’s HELL of a Life.
Bloody Hell (MA15+) is screening as part of this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival (October 1st – 11th 2020) with a national theatrical release intended for October 8th 2020. For more information and session times click here.