A man with a complex past has to fight for his life when he’s kidnapped by a cannibalistic family in rural Finland in Bloody Hell, a fast, loose, and surprisingly engaging horror-thriller that boasts a breakthrough lead performance from Ben O’Toole.
Directed by Alister Grierson (2011’s Sanctum), Bloody Hell stars O’Toole as Rex, whose backstory is so complex it takes a third of the movie to set up through flashbacks. Seven years ago, Rex managed to stop a Des Moines bank robbery by killing the perpetrators, but his use of excessive force landed him in prison.
Seeking a fresh start, Rex tosses spitballs at a map on his cell wall and lands on Finland three times in a row; his fate sealed, he jumps on a plane as soon as he’s released to travel to a new land and find a new adventure.
But adventure find him first: before he even gets on the plane, he’s targeted by a creepy Finnish couple (Caroline Craig and Matthew Sunderland); when he arrives in Helsinki, he’s gassed by his taxi driver (Jack Finsterer) as soon as he steps out of the airport. Bloody hell.
Rex wakes up to find himself chained up in a basement — and missing a leg. He’s going to have to use his wits – depicted on-screen as an alternate personality whom he carries on conversations with – to avoid becoming dinner for what appears to be a family of cannibals. But maybe he can convince the benevolent daughter (Meg Fraser), who dresses his wounds, to help him out.
For what is essentially a two-set story – the vast majority of the action here occurs in the dark Finnish basement and, in flashbacks, the Des Moines bank – Bloody Hell is a surprisingly fast-paced little yarn that never slows down enough to lose our attention. Working from a screenplay by Robert Benjamin, director Grierson infuses every shot in the film with a go-for-broke style reminiscent of early Sam Raimi.
Raimi is a good comparison: despite the serious nature of the situation, the jovial, almost comic attitude Bloody Hell takes is something unique. But while this horror-comedy is decidedly more comedy than horror, the film delivers the thrills as Rex attempts to make his way out of a tough spot — made even tougher by the fact that he’s missing a leg.
Ben O’Toole is a revelation as Rex: carrying most of the film by himself through two distinct personalities (his alter ego gives off strong Robert Downey Jr. vibes), his flippant attitude in the face of extreme danger is a perfect match for Bloody Hell’s tone. O’Toole has had bit parts in films like Hacksaw Ridge and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but he exudes the charm of a real star here.
Darkly comic and comically dark, Bloody Hell is limited in its scope but has enough going for it to warrant a watch – especially for genre fans. Fast-paced and generally fun throughout, this one is a bloody good time.