It’s no secret that I love a good, funny, bloody horror film. The more vicious, the better, so when I encountered the trailer for Australian horror dark-comedy Bloody Hell, it looked right up my alley. Written by Robert Benjamin and directed by Alister Grierson (Sanctum), Bloody Hell is just the right kind of batshit crazy bloody bonanza that I look for when I hunker down to feast on a film.
In the film, we follow Rex (Ben O’Toole, Nekrotronic), a capable ex-military man who becomes a very reluctant celebrity after heroically halting a bank robbery. His brave (and slightly unhinged) actions, however, lead to the accidental death of an innocent woman, so instead of being paraded around town as an unsuspecting saviour, he’s thrown behind bars for 8 long years. Upon his release, opinions of the man are… divisive, to say the least. In an attempt to escape his newfound (and unwanted) fame, he takes a trip to Helsinki, Finland, where his nightmare truly begins. Kidnapped by a close-knit family and set aside to serve as a meaty, mighty meal, Rex must talk himself through the trauma and out of this horrific situation.
O’Toole absolutely slays this role, with excellent comedic timing and flawless delivery, playing both versions of himself (when I said he has to talk himself through it, I wasn’t just turning a phrase). Rex holds conference with his imaginary self on a regular basis — throughout the entire film — adding a snarling yet supportive presence that kicks humour into each interaction. Even at his most cutthroat, he’s endearing, and there’s never a moment you’re not rooting for him to break free and kill ‘em all. O’Toole consistently (impressively) manages to steal the scene from himself, and it’s wildly fun to watch. He plays the Joker to his own Batman.
Rex reasons, “you are here, and it doesn’t matter how”, which is just the kind of fatalistic logic that makes this story work. Stars have aligned, and we don’t need to know why or how. Bloody Hell is sort of a dark fairy tale that leads Rex towards the redemption he so sorely needs, and — in the vein of every fairy tale in existence — it’s best to not question anything else that might muddle the journey.
Directing and writing aside, Benjamin and Grierson also co-edited Bloody Hell, and they did an excellent job of cobbling together one cohesive vision that has a whole lot of character. There are hilarious smash-cuts sprinkled through the fast-paced punches, and musical licks (including one infamous lick) slide one scene to the next. It’s all a bit of a frenzy, but given the twisted fairy tale concept of the film, it actually works well. The pace never falters, we’re ever-chugging forward through each page of this maniacal storybook.
Bloody Hell loves its violence (don’t we all) and serves it up on a generous platter. The through-line of the entire film is a kind of vicious fun that paints a distinct image of Rex as a character. He’s a true anti-hero. The wide-eyed Alia (Meg Fraser) sees him as a knight in absolutely-no-armor, here to rescue her from her diabolical family. It’s a role that Rex hesitates to fill, which is understandable. Considering his dire situation (and knowing how things went for him the last time he played heroics), his desire to just hurry up and GTFO brings an inner conflict that’s echoed by the audience.
It’s a darkly comedic film that’s perfectly served by excellent performances and sharp editing. One moment in particular — a reunion with a lost and much missed part of Rex — made me laugh out loud with its flawless execution. Grierson and Benjamin know exactly what they’re doing, and they do it very well. The film flows from one madcap moment to the next, but still contains enough somber realism to keep it grounded.
Bloody Hell is wildly fun and deliciously vicious (and yes, that is a cannibalism pun). It weaves a twisted tale of romance, fate, and redemption, and does so with its tongue firmly set in-cheek. If you’re looking for some counter-programming to the Valentine’s Day rom-com lovefest, it’s a solid contender. You’ll get the same amount of love and laughter, but with a total tonal shift.
Bloody Hell is available now on VOD, with limited drive-in and theatrical screenings. You can check out the red-band trailer and poster below.