“Some things are older than science, older than God; the earth has its own secrets,” whispers a local Irishman named William. As two Canadian travelers carefully approach an ancient gravesite, William’s friend jumps out from around the tombstones scaring the hell out of the tourists who wanted to get a glimpse at a real piece of historic horror. That is one of the great things about folklore. Stories are passed down through generations that cause people to travel all over the world to see the sites that inspired mythological creatures, and locals love to lean into it all for a scare or a laugh.
Embracing small town antics and camaraderie, writer/director Chris Baugh summons a new story on the traditional vampire lore and takes a stab at marrying comedy and horror with his film Boys from County Hell.
Eugene Moffat (Jack Rowan) and his friends regularly hang out at their local small town pub called The Stoker, named after renowned horror author Bram Stoker. One of the ways they entertain themselves is by luring in tourists who are drawn to their rural village to see the origins of vampire lore. While everyone knows about Dracula, there is another vampire that has deeper and darker origins who is buried under an ancient cairn topped with an ominous animal skull. This burial is located in the middle of a pasture in which Eugene and his emotionally distant father Francie (Nigel O’Neill) are hired to uproot for construction and renovation. When tragedy strikes, blood is spilled on the grave and absorbed into the ground as though the beast underneath is feasting on the wounded. After this fateful night, things begin to grow dire and the village is not only facing the danger of development, but also an evil creature hungry for prey.
Baugh provides a larky take on vampire lore that it is meta and actually addresses vampire mythology head-on. Eugene and his friends band together in order to figure out how to stop this older version of Dracula by referencing the book itself. In a manner similar to The Lost Boys, they go through a standard list of methods to kill and ward the creature off: stake through the heart, sunlight, etc. However, the manner in which the beast feeds is newly discovered as well as the way that it supposedly can be defeated, which leads to highly entertaining bouts of violence and effects. The efforts in which the friends go to in order to test out their theories is comical and keeps viewers guessing as to what is going to actually work this time around.
The special effects are executed extremely well with various degrees of camp and gore courtesy of Millennium FX. This Irish creature is not the handsome and seductive type as seen in Interview with the Vampire and does not have superhuman strength. And it sure as hell doesn’t glisten in the sunlight or crush on teenage girls. It’s a species all on its own and is exposed in limited increments, which builds tension while using a modest budget to its full potential. When the creature is on screen, it successfully commands attention.
Each character carries their own weight in this boozy, burly, and bloody film. The stereotypes of Irish townsfolk are well at play given their affinity for alcohol, love of their land, and willingness to throw a punch when it is rightfully deserved. While there is plenty of comedy, there are also more serious moments between friends and family in which their bonds are compromised. These relationships add a deeper layer to the emotional components of the film, but obscure the tone at times. Eugene’s relationship with his dad is one of the central focuses of the film as well as his quest for redemption among his friends as well as the town, in general. While he didn’t have much to be proud of or have any direction in the beginning of the film, he steps up to the task to make things right.
The film’s 90 minute runtime gets to the point, but does leave one thirsty for more bloodshed. However, Boys from County Hell unearths a refreshing spin on vampire lore and provides a dark tale of camaraderie that can be legendary in its own right.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10
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