In my book reviews, I’ve often mentioned the “Triple Threat” of horror, humor, and heart. I’m introducing the term here because it also applies to stories on the screen. When these aspects are present, I am fully captivated and invested in the tale being told. Boys from County Hell is the latest film to deliver on all three areas and leave a lasting impression upon this viewer.
The film is set in a small Irish town, Six Mile Hill, where an ancient cairn marks the grave of a vampire. But this is not just any vampire—it’s Abhartach, the supposed inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The landmark and the town, complete with a pub aptly named The Stoker, draw tourists whom the locals love to prank.
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Early on in the film, we meet Eugene (Jack Rowan) and his group of friends. Eugene has a strained relationship with his father and spends most of his time between the pub and working for his father’s construction company. The road crew is tasked with the removal of the ancient cairn in preparation for a new motorway. Before they even begin the work, tragedy strikes Eugene and his group of friends, which sets bigger events in motion.
I found the character development to be the strongest piece of the film. While the opening scene grips the viewer with a hint of the horror to come, it’s the introduction to the main characters that seals the deal. It isn’t long before your engrossed in the lives of the townsfolk and want to see where their story leads.
As a viewer, I felt the emotions deeply. The tragic moments left a lump in my throat, while the perfectly-timed humor often left me laughing aloud. The entire cast give solid performances throughout the film. It’s the quality acting combined with the excellent screenplay that contribute to such effective character development.
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The tension is palpable, especially in the more action-oriented scenes. I found that the pacing started off great but there was a bit of a lull at times in the scenes that were character-driven and heavier on dialogue. That being said, it didn’t last long because the slower parts were sandwiched between scenes packed with excitement. Had the film taken too long to build up to the initial action scenes, this would’ve been more of an issue.
Overall, I thought this one was well-done, and it’s in the running to make my Top Ten list for the year. Like a good book, I didn’t want the story to come to an end, and I think that speaks volumes about the talent of the filmmaking crew.
Writer-director Chris Baugh has created a story with exceptional balance. The macabre moments mingle with a mix of humor and heartfelt emotion. Viewers get a taste of lore within a modern tale that explores themes of family, friendship, and tradition. With its fresh take on the vampire tale, Boys from County Hell stands out within the sub-genre and is also a memorable addition to the growing realm of Irish horror.
Boys from County Hell is available on Shudder in the U.S. and Canada as of April 22.
WICKED RATING: 8/10