Bingo Hell made its debut today on Amazon Prime. The latest in the Welcome to the Blumhouse collaboration between the studios, it dropped onto the platform alongside Black as Night.
Set in a small barrio on the brink of gentrification, Bingo Hell tells the story of a small but dedicated group of friends who have lived in Oak Springs for decades and aren’t ready to sell their homes to developers. Then, one night, a mysterious stranger drives into town and buys out their bingo hall, setting a series of events in motion that they could never have imagined.
Bingo Hell is directed by GiGi Saul Guerrero (Into the Dark: Culture Shock), a talented director and actress who unfortunately seems unable to decide what kind of film she is making, though I’m not entirely sure the fault can be laid solely at her feet. The script written by Shane McKenzie and Perry Blackshear alongside Guerrero seems to be cobbled together roughly. Genres sit next to each other, often struggling for dominance, only to give way to scenes that last entirely too long with too much negative space in them which leads to pacing issues.
Thankfully for Guerrero’s sake, her cast is more than up to the task of filling in some of those blank spaces.
First and foremost, Adriana Barraza (Babel) is absolutely amazing as Lupita, the firecracker leader of the Oak Springs holdouts. The Oscar nominated Mexican actress brings more than attitude to the role, however. In her hands, Lupita manages to come across as a woman on a mission. She will not give up what is hers, even when she’s not sure why she still holds onto it. For Lupita, it is the principle of the thing. You don’t walk into someone’s home and claim it for yourself.
Then there’s her polar opposite, the Randall Flagg to her Mother Abigail. Richard Brake (3 From Hell) as Mr. Big oozes–sometimes literally–evil so well that he manages to be menacing even though we don’t know anything about him. The character is given no real back story, mythology, motivation, nothing. He rolls into town, force feeds greed onto the citizens of Oak Springs…then punishes them for being greedy. It’s not quite as thin as the motives of the men in The Craft: Legacy, but it comes close.
Still, the two manage to pull off some really fun moments, and Mr. Big’s dollar-sign mark-of-the-beast becomes a menacing symbol as Lupita’s friends, one by one, fall to his “charms.”
As for those friends, again, Guerrero lucked out. L. Scott Caldwell (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Bertila Damas (Roswell, New Mexico), Clayton Landey (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3), and Grover Coulson (Bail Out) give memorable performances. Caldwell, especially, seems to fully commit to the story and seems to be having a really good time telling it.
Sadly, there was simply not enough substance in Bingo Hell to make a meal of things. The horror genre is the perfect space to explore the negative effects of gentrification, and Guerrero and her crew seem on the verge of really saying something from time to time only to step back from the precipice at the last moment.
Still, there are good moments in Bingo Hell, and quite frankly, the minute Barraza picks up a shotgun and goes hunting her nemesis is worth the price of admission.
You can see Bingo Hell on Amazon today! Check out the trailer below and let us know if you’ll be watching.