[Review by local guest writer Matt Pawelski]
On the North Bend Film Festival’s virtual “Nightstream” lineup this month, Boys from County Hell is a must for any horror lovers due for a slightly-less-than-traditional and tongue in cheek Bram Stoker mystery.
Situated in the small rural town of Six Mile Hill in Northern Ireland, we meet a group of bored and drunk but good-natured pranksters searching for their calling.
Eugene Moffatt (Jack Rowan) and his father (Nigel O’Neill), who owns the local contracting company, both take for granted the town’s historical myths of an evil bloodsucker buried beneath the rocks on the hill. A life of daily trips to “The Stoker” bar are sadly interrupted when Eugene is convinced by his father to take on a “special” construction project.
Boys from County Hell delivers properly gratuitous gore expected with the genre and season.
Filmmaker Chris Baugh delivers an aesthetically pleasing and well-produced horror-comedy mystery. Boys is filmed entirely in Northern Ireland with stunning cinematography and high-end production quality. Collaboration between Baugh’s Six Mile Hill Productions, Fis Eireann (Screen Ireland), Automatik, Egg Studios, Inevitable Pictures and Blinder films results in a blend of beautiful countryside shots, violent special effects and a spooky feel.
This genre’s delivery is long due for an overhaul and Boys stands up to the challenge, properly blending engaging character personas and a healthy element of surprise, edge-of-seat moments with increasingly ridiculous humor throughout. The plot gradually thickens and so does the laughter, frequently approaching slapstick. Though alone watching in a dark room (thanks, COVID), I laughed out loud a few times. I also thought, “oh, that’s a little over-the-top.”
Some may find the characters and their reactions a little unbelievable. Still, if framed correctly, this film is likely to provide an hour and a half of good old-fashioned adult Halloween fun. The characters are quite funny, even if not always believable. Complete with carnage and heart-stopping moments, this film will probably start you out asking, “what on earth did we pay for” but leave you grinning and refreshed. Even in the worst of cases, you’re treated to high-quality scenery shots of lovely-carved coastal mountain ranges and lush green rolling plains.
However, the film is poised to become a cult classic given the humor, nature, and even origin. It plays into the perceived distinct Irish humor, where everyone is drunk, swearing, and unable to find the words to express emotions. This is actually Baugh’s second making of this film, with the first run in 2012 and was received as less humorous. He lays it on very adeptly in this delivery, though, gradually becoming more and more hilarious throughout.
Whether a long-time cult classic or not, Boys from County Hell should be on every Dracula or Stoker fan’s watch list this Halloween season. It is a fantastic fit for a film to run at an adult Halloween party. It is bound to incite laughter. As with most adult-oriented Halloween parties, the characters are drinking in practically every frame.
[For some October spooky fun this movie is available to stream through tomorrow here]