Boys from County Hell
by Hope Madden
Lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink.
That’s Eugene’s (Jack Rowan) line. He’s done working for his Dad (Nigel O ‘Neill), the meanest bastard ever to run a construction crew. Eugene’s happy to waste his youth drinking with his mates in The Stoker and ushering naive tourists to that pile of stones they come out to see – not that there’s really a vampire under there. Certainly not the one, true vampire that inspired Bram Stoker in the first place.
Right! So, many pints and backhoes and buddies later we find out whether ol’ Abhartach under those stones is a myth or not.
As writer/director Chris Baugh adapts his 2013 short into a fun, effective monster flick, he begins by tossing out vampire tradition. Ireland’s own Bram Stoker had written a piece of fiction, after all, and this is reality. The new mythology is a little muddier and more monstrous than Dracula, but never less than fun.
Baugh taps into the same kind of smalltown boredom that situates the nation’s most memorable monster movies, from Grabbers to Rawhead Rex. He does a lot with a small budget, suggesting the monster more than showing it until the final act, but there’s plenty of blood to make up for the subtlety.
A couple of veterans (O’Neill, as well as John Lynch, also on Shudder right now in Christopher Smith’s The Banishing) give the cast a strong backbone. A solid group of young ne’er do wells (Louise Harland, Michael Hough and Fra Fee joining Rowan) create a lived-in camaraderie. The charm and familiarity among the ensemble are undoubtedly the reasons the film works as well as it does.
Boys from County Hell is a horror/comedy, but it’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny. It’s actually a good deal more tender in its own endearingly bull-headed way, with a narrative more focused on the father/son dynamic than on coming of age or bloodshed. Baugh’s deep sense of these characters and this terrain benefit the relationship building and give the film a nice throughline.
This is a “what are you going to do with your life” film, and for some people, it takes a good, old-fashioned bloodletting to help them make up their minds.