Irish films almost always have a leg up on the competition. Someone speaks and we Americans go “Aww! This is so cute!” Such is Boys From County Hell, director Chris Baugh’s sophomore feature.
In an Irish village which lives off a Roswell-type reputation for inventing the modern vampire (and which simply won’t let you forget Bram Stoker was born in Ireland), tension is afoot. Historical burial mounds right outside the village are set to be destroyed by a construction gang eager to open space for a highway. But unleashed from beneath the mounds lies the terror that inspired Stoker’s Dracula, and—yeah, you know where this is going.
Charming is the right word to use, mostly because it’s Irish; fans of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead will feel right at home (and yes, we know Ireland isn’t England). Here, though, Boys From County Hell’s comedy mostly comes from deadpan realism—from vampire-zombies who emerge and go for the kill, and from living characters yelling expletives who spend most of the 90 minutes fleeing chaos and bickering.
Jack Rowan (Peaky Blinders) steps lively into this otherwise average product, his expressive eyes alone providing much-needed sympathy. It’s ultimately granola to an otherwise bland but filling yogurt, if you will. There’s a great concept at play, primarily the destruction of heritage—in this case, small mounds worshipped by the small-town residents. Destroy cultural memory at your peril, for who knows what terrors are unleashed by such action? In a nation often strained by losing itself and desiring modernity, this thematic heart is heavy-handed and still underused and wobbling. Boys wants to be a classic creature feature or a piece a social commentary, and seemingly does not realize it can be both.
Despite sacrificing its stronger elements, it’s still an immensely entertaining film where it’s safe to forget the characters’ names. Come for the goofs and stay for the actually impressive gore props and monster make-up. There’s great dialogue, passable acting and a well-trodden path. Is that really such a bad thing? Streaming service Shudder still proves willing to take chances on what it’ll show, too, and remains about the best place to go for movie scares.
+ It’s Irish. Also, it’s fun.
- Forgettable characters, but heck, it’s Irish!
Boys From County Hell
Directed by Chris Baugh
Shudder, NR, 90 min.