Review by Sean Boelman
After becoming an under-the-radar hit last year, Amazon and Blumhouse’s anthology Welcome to the Blumhouse returns with four new films from underrepresented creators. Bingo Hell, co-written and directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, is a fun and nasty horror-comedy that will definitely satisfy fans of the horror company.
The movie follows a tight-knit community whose beloved bingo hall is purchased by an outsider whose intentions are less than pure. And although the idea of a community fighting back against a malicious external force is nothing new, it’s refreshing to see this story done with an older protagonist as the lead.
What really makes this film stand out as more than a schlocky B-movie is the level of investment there is in the characters. The main group of older heroes are all very endearing and go beyond the common archetypes of the genre when it comes to the elderly. And the movie’s antagonist is enjoyably exaggerated and wacky.
Academy Award-nominated actress Adriana Barraza brings a lot of energy to her role. It’s not a film that is meant to be taken seriously, and she approaches her performance that way, which allows the movie to work as well as it does. And the iconic character actor Richard Brake brings another memorable villain to the screen.
Like a lot of Blumhouse horror flicks, there’s some clear social commentary to be found here. In this case, the film is tackling the ideas of gentrification and greed. The things that the movie has to say aren’t particularly profound, nor are they very original, but they are delivered in a way that feels earned, even if it is direct.
If there is one thing missing from the film, it is consistent pacing. There are only two or three really horrifying scenes, and while they are extremely disturbing, they are also quite brief. It has a very low body count, perhaps a constraint of the budget of the movie, and it ultimately leaves a little bit to be desired on the carnage front.
That said, Guerrero brings an interesting enough visual style to the film that it almost makes up for the lack of excitement in the story. The bingo hall setting for much of the movie obviously lends itself to a lot of color, and that works well. Even more interesting, though, is how Guerrero blends elements of fantasy and nightmare, especially during the death scenes.
Bingo Hell is an enjoyable little horror-comedy, and while it’s not quite as glorious as it could have been, its gruesome moments are enough to make it worth the watch. Gigi Saul Guerrero is clearly a talented filmmaker, and it’s nice to see opportunities like this given to voices like hers.
Bingo Hell streams on Amazon beginning October 1.