Saturday, April 24

Boys from County Hell Review

 


By Emery Snyder @leeroy711
Director: Chris Baugh
Starring: Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neill, Louisa Harland, Michael Hough, Fra Fee & John Lynch
Shudder Exclusive – April 22, 2021

The small Irish town of Six Mile Hill boasts a local legend about an ancient bloodsucking creature that’s buried under an ominous pile of rocks. It also claims that said legend is the uncredited inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. These legends notwithstanding, the town is on hard times and a local contractor has just gotten the job to lay the foundation of a bypass that will not only route sightseers around the village, but destroy the physical ruins that stand to tell tale of the town’s only claim to fame. As one would expect in a horror film, this was an entirely horrible idea. Destroying the monument awakens the ancient evil that threatens the whole town and the road construction crew find themselves in a fight for their lives.

From its first scene, this film makes itself clear: We’re not talking about whatever your typical concept of what a vampire is. This revelation in its initial tone setting got me pretty excited to see something different and new. I wish I could say that it keeps this up throughout but, this film lands itself in between so many different ideas that it’s honestly hard to appreciate all of the good work that went into it.

The trailer makes you think that you’re watching a horror/comedy but unfortunately, most of the punchlines simply don’t land. I feel like Michael Hough’s “SP” character was supposed to be the main comic relief but the screenplay just doesn’t give him nearly enough to do. In fact, the entire cast does a pretty good job here with what they were given, specifically Rowan, who is the film’s lone source of charisma.

I would also add that the direction of individual horror/action scenes are executed quite well. The film’s gore relies largely on a combination of practical effects, costumes and makeup that are all well done and showcased nicely by the marriage of camerawork and lighting. If a film were nothing more than a collection of scenes, this would have been a good one.

At one point, I found myself thinking that the bypass being constructed around the village

was some sort of a brilliant metaphor for the film itself. Like a meta-metaphor?... Or something. In this story, the town, and its local folklore are being bypassed and passed over for something more modern and current. And because the town’s legend allegedly pre-dates Bram Stoker’s classic story, it allows the screenplay to essentially bypass the past 120 years of literary development of vampire lore.

Via this one ‘flick-of-the-wrist’ premise, the screenplay gave itself the freedom to make up all of its own new rules and traditions about vampires. Stake through the heart? I don’t know... maybe… Has to be invited in? Sunlight allergy?... <shrug emoji> Oddly enough though, in some respects, this may actually mean that this is not in fact a vampire movie. Even though the word “vampire” is spoken more times here than any other film I’ve seen.

The problem is that the originality of this premise is mostly squandered on overly derivative aspects of the rest of the film. I think there’s a nice homage here to John Landis’ AMERICAN WAREWOLF IN LONDON, but they seem to go to that well a few too many times in the 89 minutes. The first vampires we see reminded me of equal parts 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and 28 DAYS LATER in their design and physicality. And the ‘final boss’ looked a lot like a smaller, less threatening JEEPERS CREEPERS. This was particularly distracting because the invocation of that film only made me realize even how similar the plot also was.

Ultimately, if you’re simply a vampire aficionado, looking to swallow up anything with this theme, this film will check some boxes while still managing to give you something that feels fresh and new to look at. But I’m reviewing this a film. And as a film, it somehow manages to take just as many steps backwards as forwards. 

Emery’s Rating
2.5 out of 5 Stars
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