Nightstream 2020: BLOODY HELL is a Bloody Mess

The key to unlocking Bloody Hell’s bizarre perspective is the fact that it’s an Australian production, not an American one. Watching the film I couldn’t help but feel a bizarre ping of guilt as the story unraveled before me, with its stereotypical on the verge of parody, ex-military American protagonist, REX Coen (Ben O’Toole) – who feels ripped from a bad direct to VHS 80s action flick. While Rex is at the bank trying to pick up his favorite teller, a gang of robbers barge in and start to hold up the place. After disarming one of them, Rex basically turns into the guy from Doom shotgunning every bad guy that crosses his path, even the ones that give up, or beg for mercy. This is all caught on camera and makes Rex an internet celebrity as you’d expect. The only problem is during this recorded rampage, an innocent woman is killed sending Rex to jail for eight years.

Freshly out of jail Rex flees to Finland of all places to escape the paparazzi, where he is kidnapped by a cannibal family that intends to make him lunch; and probably dinner.

But they soon realize – they might have just fucked with the wrong American.

Ignore what the festival guide says, Bloody Hell is basically the first act of Iron Man, but with cannibals, instead of terrorists. Ben O’Toole here is doing his best Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark impersonation; that actually isn’t half bad. He of course is riffing off the US action hero archetype through an Australian lens. If that wasn’t weird enough, you have a family of Finnish cannibals, who are the polar opposite of the Sawyers from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who are basically only alive until Rex manages to free himself. It’s a really strange mix, that is only further muddied by the gorgeous 20 something daughter, who of course falls in love with the much older Rex and wants to kill her family and run away with him.

The film says volumes about Australian, and world views on Americans, with Rex this heightened version of a stereotype complete with his catchy/cringey one-liners. Tonally the film is all over the place and considering we’re kind of the butt of the joke here, I am not sure what I think about it. I mean I thought it was fine, but the guide claimed it was a “comedy”. The performances here are all camp, with the third act having Rex cleaning house in the most spectacular and bloody way possible. While O’Toole is low key amazing, its really hard to see past the weird Tony Stark/Robert Downey Jr. vibe he’s dropping every chance he gets. Your mileage may vary on Bloody Hell, as simply a piece of exploitation or horror it’s fine, but I think under the surface the film is struggling to say more, it just gets lost in its own bloodlust.

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