Boys from County Hell Review: Irish Vampires and a Plucky Horror Comedy – IndieWire

First, some history: Dracula author Bram Stoker, the ostensible inventor of our modern idea of the vampire, was Irish. Now, some retconning: in the world of Chris Baughs plucky horror comedy Boys from County Hell, Stokers villain was inspired by the evil exploits of Abhartach, a resident in the tiny Irish village of Six Mile Hill who delighted in drinking the blood of his neighbors. A local offed Abhartach and he was buried beneath a tall cairn of rocks in a grassy field, never to be seen again. Maybe.

Such is the world of the shiftless Eugene (Jack Rowan) and his best pal William (Fra Fee). The Abhartach legend is a fun way to distract silly tourists, but these local boys cant shake the sense that there might actually be something to the tall tale. Northern Irish filmmaker Baugh, best known for his Sundance feature Bad Day for the Cut, ably adapts his own 2013 short film for his second feature, one that weaves together good humor, gruesome horror, and the texture of real life.

While Boys from County Hell is unabashed in its affection for vampiric lore and reclaiming it for the Irish, Baugh is just as interested in making a slice-of-life dramedy that can contain both practical worries (a new highway bypass cutting through town) with the outsized (again, a vampire). Baugh and co-writer and frequent collaborator Brendan Mullin are just as compelled by the living characters and relationships as the exploits of the local undead bloodsucker. The result is an amusing horror comedy filled with characters we care about who often (gasp!) make good, understandable choices in horrifying situations.

Baugh opens his film on a charming older couple gently bickering in their living room: Should they go out for a drink at local pub The Stoker, or stay in for evening? Too late for that! The blood starts pouring out of them, seemingly pulled to some unseen entity. Baugh zips back to two months earlier, where Eugene and William stage their own gentle bickering at The Stoker and come across a pair of tourists eager to see the alleged grave of Abhartach.


The imposing stone cairn on top of the changelings resting place happens to be on land owned by Williams father, and the boys are all too happy to take these easy marks to see it. The whole thing might be bullshit, but theres a lingering worry: What if its true? Its an intriguing thread that Baugh and his cast love to pull. We know early on that the town is in serious trouble, and the eventual reveal is stretched out a bit too long for such a short film, but theres still plenty of fun in the tease.

After a grim and bloody tragedy upends the BFFs lives, they cant escape the truth: The legend of Abhartach is real, and he has it out for Six Mile Hill. Only Eugene, his prickly father Francie (Bad Day for the Cut star Nigel ONeill), Williams clever girlfriend Claire (Louisa Harland), and a motley assortment of Francies construction crew pals stand between them and a severe plasma shortage. Baugh and Mullins characters cycle through plenty of traditional horror movie beats should they try to get Abhartach into the sun? can they just cut off his head? along with some actual emotional twists.

Baugh doesnt balk at the icky and gross, but hes also adept at weaving those touches in with real humor and a generous dash of character building; a final-act injury that ultimately becomes a weapon for Eugene is disgusting, funny, and terribly clever. By the time Boys from County Hell works its way to its final face-offs, the films good humor and care for its characters is just as appealing as the gore. Vampire hounds might balk, but Boys from County Hell has it right: This is a story about people, not monsters.

Boys from County Hell starts streaming on Shudder Thursday, April 22.

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Boys from County Hell Review: Irish Vampires and a Plucky Horror Comedy - IndieWire

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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