It’s not often that a midnight movie excels in its quest for perfection, but “Bloody Hell” comes close. This violent, unruly horror-comedy is a tale of monsters, forbidden love, a demented family, and one very unlucky guy who just wants to turn his life around. Packed with a twisted sense of humor and plenty of surprises, this is one rowdy roller coaster of a movie that’s well on its way to becoming a modern cult classic.
When a video of him turning the tables during a bank robbery goes viral, Rex (Ben O’Toole) finds himself at the center of a public debate. Rex is on trial because thanks to his heroics, he rescued a bank full of people although an innocent bystander was inadvertently killed in the commotion. Depending on their perspective, some people hold Rex up as a gutsy savior while others scorn him as a violent lunatic. He’s sentenced to eight years in an Idaho prison and even after he is released almost a decade later, the man can’t escape the court of public opinion. Wanting to run away to a place where he can start over in an anonymous life, Rex randomly chooses to flee to Finland. But once the plane touches down in Helsinki, he is gassed in the back of a taxi and later wakes up shackled in a dark basement — with a body part missing.
The story is simple but solid, with a terrific setup that pays off tenfold. Director Alister Grierson relies on creative storytelling with the clever idea to have Rex talk to an imaginary version of himself. This two-way stream of consciousness device lets the hero’s inner monologue manifest as a sort of evil twin who shows up at opportune moments to encourage Rex’s devilish side as he struggles to escape. There are thrills, but the film never gets super dark because of the wacky, wry sense of humor (when a character discovers he has been talking to himself for years, Rex shrugs it off, saying “we all have issues”).
It doesn’t take long to become emotionally invested in the what-where-why mystery of the story, mostly because of the charismatic lead actor and his committed performance. The cast is terrific across the board, landing the nerdy film-literate references in the script and fully trusting the cohesive, inspired vision from Grierson and screenwriter Robert Benjamin.
As great as this movie eventually becomes, the first fifteen minutes are brutal to suffer through. At first I was so annoyed by the directorial style that I almost gave up entirely. Grierson’s overuse of artsy visuals is massively irritating but once the story gets going and the director settles down (and purges all the junk jump cuts out of his system), this turns into what amounts to the near-perfect midnight movie.
Once Rex arrives in Finland, everything on screen is outrageously satisfying. The last half of “Bloody Hell” made me scream with delight more than once, and it will probably be even better if you can watch it in the company of a raucous audience. Genre fans won’t want to miss this one.