October 1st, 2021
MOVIE: BINGO HELL
STARRING: ADRIANA BARRAZA, L. SCOTT CALDWELL, RICHARD BRAKE
DIRECTED BY: GIGI SAUL GUERRERO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
This Halloween season, Amazon and Blumhouse are delivering a weekly double feature for horror movies, all under the collection called “Welcome to the Blumhouse”. It certainly gives fans of the genre something to look forward to every weekend this month and it also can be hit or miss. Kicking it off is Bingo Hell, the newest venture from rising star director Gigi Saul Guerrero, who has flexed her directing muscles on anthology films and Hulu’s Into the Dark Series, which her film Culture Shock was a big hit. Keeping a bit of her style of horror, making it about communities stuck in horrific situations, Adriana Barraza stars as Lupita, an elderly woman of Oak Springs, a small town that is slowly being gentrified with hipster coffee shops and free corner library boxes. The issue is that Lupita and her other friends are being pushed out of what they made their home, but still bond over their weekly gatherings at the bingo hall. That makes it a ground for an evil spirit to swoop in and when the mischievous Mr. Big (Richard Brake) mysteriously takes over the bingo, everyone becomes a winner in a dark and disturbing manner. The set up hooks you and there are brief moments of inventive gore, but Bingo Hell did not line up right for me.
It’s not that Bingo Hell isn’t doing anything right. One thing is for sure, I loved the cast, and the efforts from Guerrero are in her own inventive vein. She introduces us to each community member with brief details. Lupita (Barraza) is the stubborn leader of the group, unwilling to welcome anyone new, but constantly doing her best to help the collection of friends she has. Her best friend is Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell), her neighbor who is stuck dealing with her grandson and late son’s wife Raquel (Kelly Murtagh). Yolanda (Bertila Damas) runs the local salon, which is running out of business; Morris (Clayton Landey) and Clarence (Grover Coulson) run the local auto shop. They’re all happy, but time is running out for how long they can hang around the neighborhood, and when Mr. Big rolls in, he’s a grinning devil ready to take advantage of their misfortunes. Like the wishes on a monkey paw, the winners at the bingo hall start to experience bloody results, hands tearing skin off, body parts caught in motors, and no money to make them happy.
When watching Bingo Hell the movies that seemed to be inspiration were John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, where an evil entity takes over an abandoned church and Joe Begos’ VFW, which gave older horror/action movie veterans a chance to fight off zombies at their local watering hole. Sadly, both of those movies did things much better, where the fun outweighed any issues. Bingo Hell is unfortunately just too slow to enjoy, with an hour and twenty-three minute run-time that feels like three hours. It seems like there’s just not enough there for Guerrero, who co-wrote the screenplay with Shane McKenzie, and Perry Blackshear, and relies too much of her tone on Richard Brake’s ghoulish grin to scare, or the back and forth of how a bingo winner dies. The narrative’s constant bouncing between Lupita’s investigation to figure out what’s happening to her town and the bingo hall feels like two separate movies, creating an uneven tone from the beginning.
That’s not to say that Gigi Saul Guerrero isn’t still a strong and capable director of horror. Bingo Hell is undoubtedly her voice, speaking to that sense of family and the Latino community she has celebrated so much before. There’s also something to be said about a director unafraid to cast actors of any age, which fits nicely with what we saw in the new George Romero film The Amusement Park earlier this year, but sadly that film does more with it’s time allotted. Bingo Hell takes too long to get to the point, isn’t scary enough, and misses any chance of giving us a thrill. Bingo Hell is just not calling all the right numbers to be a winner.
BINGO HELL IS ON AMAZON PRIME FRIDAY OCTOBER 1ST
Written by: Leo Brady