April 23rd, 2021
MOVIE: BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL
STARRING: JACK ROWAN, NIGEL O’NEILL, LOUISA HARLAND, MICHAEL HOUGH
DIRECTED BY: CHRIS BAUGH
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
If we can celebrate anything about 2021 it’s that we’ve already been blessed with two excellent vampire movies. Last week, Jakob’s Wife arrived and it’s not just a great vampire movie, but it’s also one of the best movies of the year. Coming out of the fields of Ireland is Chris Baugh’s Boys From County Hell, about a group of small-town folk, battling a fierce vampire that has risen up from the earth. Think Shaun of the Dead meets 30 Days of Night, where the local myth of a blood sucking vampire turns out to be true and the regulars at the pub have to find a way to save the whole county. With a unique blend of comedy, fierce looking vampires, and an appreciation for a community working together to stop an evil force, Boys From County Hell is like a deliciously strong shot of Irish whiskey. Bottom line, it’s a lot of fun.
One thing about vampire movies is that they seem to work in any genre. From the independent, laid back take by Jim Jarmusch in Only Lovers Left Alive, the recent comedy stylings of What We Do in the Shadows, the YA romance of the Twilight movies, and the superhero action of the Blade films. It’s almost surprising that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright haven’t approached the subject yet…yet. That’s okay, because Baugh and Brendan Mullin have co-written a script that embraces a fun group of characters, and mixes in a vampire folklore that reminds me of something similar to An American Werewolf in London. It’s truly a collaborative piece, with a cast of seven townsfolk, the vampire stalking in the shadows, and when it’s finally revealed what he looks like, things become even more exciting.
The main character is Eugene (Jack Rowan), a local that has all but squandered his good reputation, often drinking too many pints with best friend William (Fra Fee), and disappointing his dad Francie (Nigel O’Neill) by not following him in the family construction job. Rounding out the group is fellow boozer SP McCauley (Michael Hough) and William’s bartender girlfriend Claire (Louisa Harland), all of them living in the countryside of Ireland, where the legend has it that a vampire once roamed the village, sucking blood from others, and buried under a sacred stack of rocks. It’s believed to have inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, which has led tourists to arrive from time to time, but when Francie’s ragtag construction team destroys the rocks, it just might reveal that the legend is not just a myth, but a big lanky vampire waiting to be fed.
One of the cooler features of Boys From County Hell is how it understands that getting the vampire right helps propel everything else. This is not an ordinary vampire either, where instead of sinking his teeth into necks, he sucks the blood from bodies simply by standing near them. It makes for a chaotic, creepy display of gore, with rivers of blood flowing out of eyes, and open orifices. And even those that become infected have a nasty streak, with fierce claws, teeth, and strength to break through walls. Similar to Jim Cummings The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Boys From County Hell balances well with the impressive horror trends, while giving more than enough depth to care about everyone in town, laughter from well timed jokes, and keeping the monster a mystery till the very end.
Even when Boys From County Hell is reminding me of the styles of an Edgar Wright or digging into themes about the stubborn, and sometimes wreckless comradery in men, it’s at it’s best when it’s about the group surviving the blood sucker. It’s those kinds of group adventures that always work for me, from The Goonies, to Get Duked!, or Boys From County Hell, it’s fun to see ourselves as heroes in these wacky scenarios. Director Chris Baugh does a great job of blending it all together. The ending may be wrapped up a bit too easily for my liking, but it’s always refreshing to get two great vampire movies in a row, and see some Irish luck added to the horror genre. Boys From County Hell had my Irish eyes smiling.
BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL PREMIERES ON SHUDDER APRIL 22ND
Written by: Leo Brady