Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Boys from County Hell, on Shudder

He is the Irish nationalist alternative to Vlad the Impaler. According to legend, Abhartach was an under-sized Napoleon-esque warrior, who became an undead blood-sucker. It was a story the Irish Bram Stoker would very likely have heard and used as a source of inspiration for Dracula, especially as far as the tourist-fleecing townsfolk of Six Mile Hill are concerned. Unfortunately, they will learn just how hard it is to kill Abhartach when they disturb his resting place in Chris Baugh’s Boys from County Hell, which premieres this Thursday on Shudder.

Eugene Moffat does not have much future in Six Mile Hill, so he really can’t blame his mate William Bogue for leaving. However, a drunken night out culminates rather badly for all concerned when Bogue gets gored by a loose bull and has his blood sucked into Abhartach’s grave. Moffat’s contractor father Francis was hired to clear the stone gravesite to make way for an expressway, but that lets loose the recently-strengthened ancient proto-vampire.

It turns out all the methods of killing vampires were the invention of Stoker and Murnau. In reality, you have to bury Abhartach under enough stone to keep him pinned down. Obviously, that is a tough trick to pull off, but Moffat, his father, and his cronies will do their meatheaded best.

Chris Baugh (whose first feature was the nifty little gritty crime thriller,
Bad Day for the Cut) comes up with the first really original twist on the vampire legend in years. It is gory and gruesome, but in the right, amusing kind of way. It is also an intriguing way for Baugh to pay tribute to the macabre side of his Celtic heritage.

The cast, led by the game Jack Rowan dives into the madness head-first. There is not much call for subtlety and sensitivity, but they commit to the chaos wholeheartedly. Admittedly, they are largely hitting the same notes, over and over, but they maintain an impressive energy level.

County Hell
is a pretty wild ride that gives Abhartach the recognition he is overdue. Show some respect, because he is one bad cat. Baugh could very well inspire a boomlet of Abhartach movies thanks to his rediscovery, rehabilitation, or whatever. Highly recommended for fans of Vampires and Celtic horror, Boys from County Hell starts streaming this Thursday (4/22), on Shudder.