Nightstream 2020 Review: BLOODY HELL, Gruesome, Gory, and Gut-Bustingly Funny
A viral vigilante escapes unwanted notoriety only to find that even though things were bad, they can always get worse in Alister Grierson's new gonzo shocker, Bloody Hell.
Rex (Ben O'Toole, Hacksaw Ridge/Nekrotronic) was minding his own business at the bank, making cutesy eyes at an attractive teller when a sudden robbery throws him into fight or flight mode. Much to the dismay of the robbers, Rex picks fight, and several shotgun blasts later, Rex is being hailed as a hero... almost. Among the victims of his adrenaline fueled outburst, is an innocent whose death sends him to prison, leaving him in the awkward position of being an angel to some and a demon to others.
When he is released from paying his debt to society, it seems that the world hasn't forgotten, and every paparazzo in the country wants a piece. Unable to handle the pressure, Rex decides the only way to maintain his sanity is to go as far away as he possibly can, in this case the frozen north of Finland, where no one knows him, and he can finally be anonymous and start over.
He arrives with no plans and no contacts, so when he's offered a ride, he gladly takes it. Unfortunately for him, he wakes up several hours later, chained up in a basement and missing half a leg. Soon it comes to light that the leg is just the beginning, and if he can't figure out a way to escape, he's going to lose a lot more. It's not looking good.
What could certainly be a pretty grim entry in the late, lamented torture porn genre is given a remarkably light treatment by writer Robert Benjamin and his director, turning Bloody Hell into a very fun, violent black comedy. An Australian production set in the US and Finland, the film has a very interesting international flavor that is sure to appeal across audiences with a lot of very solid action and FX work supporting a ludicrous story that gets crazier with every plot revelation.
Never missing a chance to pile on the gore or any gruesome elements, Grierson keeps the blood flowing, even when the action moves away from Rex and his plight. O'Toole is supported handily by Caroline Craig as Alia, a sympathetic resident of the house in which he's imprisoned. Alia is the one tasked with most of the exposition, and Benjamin's script wisely manages to avoid too many information dumps (though they are necessary) in favor of following other characters around as they provide the background the audience needs.
Even more impressive, though, is a clever plot device that sees Rex playing frequently against an imaginary id version of himself in a semi-dissociative state. Unable to cope with the pressures put upon him when his life falls apart, Rex is frequently assisted by a wilder, and wilier version of himself who ends up providing a lot of the film's distinctive levity. It's not a new idea to have an isolated character talking to himself, but the way it’s used in Bloody Hell is very effective.
In the interest of saving some of the film's gorier twists from being spoiled, I will say that I didn't expect to see two films - this one and Honeydew - sharing such a very specific subgenre but handling them so differently. Both feature people being held against their will either by force or coercion, but there's a bloodier thread connecting them that I really enjoyed as well.
I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Rex eventually does make a break for it, and the final action sequence delivers far beyond what anyone could've expected, even in a film as wild as this one. We get a fuller view of the scope of his situation in a way that brings together some of the more gruesome elements introduced in passing early in the film, it's really satisfying and definitely a great way to put a button on an already very fun film. Bloody Hell starts off at about a nine, and just continues ratcheting up the insanity with every new plot turn, and that’s a surefire way to get my recommendation.