Sunday, October 11, 2020

Nightstream ’20: Bloody Hell

Much to Rex Coen's disappointment, Alia’s rustic Finnish family will not be serving him sauteed reindeer with lingonberry sauce. Instead, they will be serving Coen. However, the Scandinavian cannibals are about to learn the American is unusually hard to kill, thanks to his personified survival instinct. Coen’s snarky interior monologue helped him survive Afghanistan and a violent bank robbery, but they must face a truly monstrous family in Alister Grierson’s Bloody Hell, which screens on-demand as part of the online genre festival, Nightstream.

Most people think Coen is a hero for giving a gang of armed bank-robbers the Charles Bronson treatment, but some people blamed him for a tragic mishap that will eventually be revealed in flashbacks. Unfortunately, that included the DA, who forced Coen to accept an 8-year plea deal. After his release, the controversial Coen wanted to get away from it all, so he booked a vacation to Finland. As a pariah loner, he looked like perfect prey to Alia’s psycho family, but Coen has skills and his alter-ego projection, who refuses to let him give-up.

Coen might also have an ally in Alia, who has always been horrified by her family’s crimes. Nevertheless, it will be difficult for the long-tormented young woman to decisively turn against her abusive family. Coen will soon discover she has good reason to be so fearful when he comes to, hanging from a hook in their rural basement with one foot amputated. He will have to give himself some serious pep talks to get through this one.

Bloody Hell
isn’t just a title Grierson and screenwriter Robert Benjamin picked out of a hat. It is brutally violent, but also often wickedly droll. It is probably the funniest cannibal horror comedy since Danny Mulheron’s Fresh Meat, but the tension is higher, because the stakes are greater and more realistic. There is considerable gore, but we pull for Coen all the way.

Unquestionably, Ben O’Toole deserves a lot of credit for the film working as well as it does, because he is terrific playing Coen’s nice guy façade and his tough-talking inner self. Thanks to him, this could be the most successful portrayal of subconscious drama since
Gerald’s Game. Frankly, Meg Fraser is problematically wishy-washy as Alia, but Caroline Craig is spectacularly horrifying as her mother, a real Mommie Dearest from Hell.

Okay, this might not be one for the overly sensitive. There is definitely a fair amount of blood to go with its generally Hobbesian world view, but it also has a sense of humor and keen notion of justice. All in all, it is one of the funniest and bloodiest horror comedies to come along in a while. Recommended for hardy genre fans,
Bloody Hell screens on-demand through next Wednesday (10/14), as part of Nightstream.