Holy shit, this is a good movie! We need to get that out of the way. Chris Baugh’s Boys from County Hell is a really good time. But it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s the kind of film that’s going to appeal to a specific kind of person with a specific sense of humour. If you like your comedy black and bleak, if you’re into a bit of gallows humour, then chances are you’re really going to love this. Chris Baugh’s previous film Bad Day for the Cut has a very similar look and feel to this one in terms of the setting and the sense of humour.
If you want blood, gore, deadpan humour and a lovely twist on vampire mythos, then you should give this one a look. Our setting is a town in Ireland called Six Mile Hill, home to a cairn beneath which is buried the ancient evil known as Abhartach who passed his days sucking the blood from his neighbours until he was killed. The residents claim that this legend led to a certain famous author writing a little known book about bloodsuckers called Dracula, and this is pretty much the only claim to fame the town has.
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Boys from County Hell has a beautiful cold open with an old couple sitting at home, debating what they might do with their evening. Moments later, blood starts pouring from their nose and eyes before we cut back to two months earlier to meet our main cast. Our main character is Eugene (Jack Rowan), who gets drafted in to help his father Francie (Nigel O’Neill) build a new bypass. The bypass just so happens to go through the field that contains Abhartach’s cairn, which means it needs to be demolished. I’m sure NOTHING bad will come of knocking down this marker over the grave of some ancient and unknowable evil and this film will actually focus on the adversarial relationship between Eugene and Francie.
Oh wait, I mean that Abhartach will awaken, shit will go sideways, and the members of the cast will spend most of their time frantically trying to stay alive as the undead hunt them down for their tasty, tasty blood while also looking for a way to set things right. Eugene and Francie might even hug things out by the time the credits roll. Maybe.
The film has a lot of fun playing around with vampire lore, and Dracula specifically, while at the same time weaving through a thread of small-town stresses and conflicts that help to keep things very grounded in the here and now. The building of the bypass, William’s yearning to leave the town behind for something bigger and grander, the conflict between father and son following the death of the wife/mother. This is a very gritty and “realistic” take on vampires compared to other more fantasy-inspired offerings. No repeating crossbows, hellmouths or ancient French aristocrats here. Just ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
The cast are uniformly fun to watch, from Eugene’s directionless boozing to George’s (John Lynch) no-win situation, everyone gets their little arc and they’re all well executed, (even if I still have trouble seeing John Lynch as anyone other than the two-timing boyfriend Gerry from Sliding Doors). Soundtrack duties are taken up by Steve Lynch, who has also scored Dominion Creek and Let Us Prey among others. The soundtrack is…fine? It’s not too intrusive or jarring, but it’s also not hugely memorable. That’s okay, though, I was too busy watching the shenanigans on-screen to really care.
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Boys From County Hell is another worthy addition to the horror comedy genre and while not as easily accessible as, say, Sean of the Dead, it does have a vampire getting shanked with the pointy end of someone’s dismembered leg. Take that, Buffy and Van Helsing and all you other vampire hunter types. Didn’t see any of you doing that.
Boys From County Hell is out in cinemas on 6th August.