Are you feeling lucky…?
…Well, are you reader? You should be, because “Welcome to Blumhouse” is back this October with another slate of four feature horror films to make you scream! Included in those four is director Gigi Saul Guerrero’s (Culture Shock) wild new chiller, Bingo Hell, and it’s a winner!
Written by Guerrero, Shane McKenzie (El Gigante) and Perry Blackshear (They Look Like People), Bingo Hell is set in the Barrio of Oak Springs, where Lupita (Adriana Barraza), her friend Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell) and others have worked hard over the decades to rid their neighborhood of gangs, but have still found themselves poor, worn down, and worst of all, old. That is, until Mr. Biggs Bingo Hall moves in, promising rich rewards without divulging the price winners must pay. Once people in town begin disappearing, Lupita takes it upon herself to bring down Biggs (Richard Brake) by any means necessary.
And you know what? Guerrero is rolling sevens the whole damn time!
Before Bingo Hell even starts, Guerrero has already done something too rarely seen in horror, and that’s give a voice to not just the old, but older minorities. We hardly ever get horror films from the point of view of older generations in a genre that is crowded by hormonal teens and maniacs, and we especially don’t get enough movies with diverse casts. Bingo Hell is both, and the audience is rewarded all the more because of it.
Following a weird with a capital W death that is as gross, gooey and fucked up as I’ve come to expect from Gigi—which I say with complete admiration—we meet Lupita and her friends. These are not the frail, boring, creepy geriatrics that horror tends to make seniors out to be. All of them, but especially Lupita, are energetic, feisty, take-charge people with mouths that would make a sailor blush. Sure, they have their aches and pains—“you’ve gotten old, bitch,” Lupita says as she smokes a cigar like the badass she is—but they’re a bunch that rolls with the punches and doesn’t take shit from anyone. Look no further than Dolores and the way she shuts down her deceased son’s wife, Raquel (Kelly Murtagh), aka, “that pasty bitch”, and the way she treats Dolores’ grandson, Caleb (Joshua Caleb Johnson).
Maybe it’s because my 30s have made me feel like I’m gradually becoming the old man screaming on his lawn—live it up, youths!—but there is something so refreshing about Bingo Hell giving a voice to the older generation. No, not a voice. Bingo Hell is a goddamn battle cry for the old, Lupita leading the charge with an intensity that would leave Rambo shaking in his boots.
Gigi is a phenomenal director—more on her in a moment—but Lupita and this cast are the lucky dice to Gigi’s Craps table. The bond they share, in particular Lupita and Dolores, is delightful. These are characters you don’t just root for, you get up and cheer for them, and it’s all thanks to their endearing personalities. Some of you will likely recognize Barraza from Drag Me to Hell, in which she was downright terrifying, but here she gets to flex her comedic muscles, and to say she’s a scene stealer would be an understatement. She’s hilarious.
Mark my words, Guerrero is quickly rising to become one of the best horror comedy directors working today. Why? Gigi has a style akin to Joe Dante, but with a flair for extreme gore, ultimately giving fans the best of both worlds. Bingo Hell is overflowing with all of the gooey, gross, goofy hilarity you could possibly ask for. Gigi does the near impossible and manages to infuse a cartoonish humor into even the most serious of subjects, yet blends the humor and the horror together perfectly. Not an easy task, but one she makes look easy in Bingo Hell.
Biggs Bingo Hall—run by the devilish Richard Brake, gifted with one of the best evil grins in cinema—feels like stepping into a cartoon. Biggs himself could be the human version of Wile E. Coyote. He certainly spared no expense, and neither does Gigi, creating an alien atmosphere complete with burning green neon and a score by Chase Horseman that recalls campy sci-fi movies, alien whistles and all. Andrew Wesman’s frantic cutting and cinematographer Byron Werner’s extreme close-ups all combine to project a disorienting, strange atmosphere that might make you feel a little looney yourself.
But this is what I love about Gigi’s work: She can have you rolling on the floor in one moment, and screaming your lungs out the next. Bingo Hell completely disarms the audience through laughs, ill-preparing them for the extreme gore that comes later. And I do mean extreme. Gigi is a gore fan herself, and it shows, because Bingo Hell makes it rain blood. If you’re a gorehound watching a film from Guerrero, you’re always going to come out a winner.
Speaking of winning, within the loads of gore and silly humor, Bingo Hell is rich in humanity, heart, and commentary on the actual value of those slips of paper we so viciously crave. The film isn’t exactly subtle about it either. Not that money is particularly sexy—unless you’re one of those rich people who likes rolling around in it on their bed—but Bingo Hell makes money seem as gross as possible, to the point of actually covering it in so much slimy goop, I started to wonder if the film had a partnership with Nickelodeon slime. Similar to stories such as Needful Things or Faust, Bingo Hell is a “be careful what you wish for” story with a poignant message about how friends and family are more valuable than any amount of money, a message I wish our politicians would take note of.
Bingo Hell is a very particular brand of horror comedy that won’t work for everyone, since it’s either going to be too silly or too extreme or both for some, and it occasionally falls into a money pit when it comes to the rules of the horror and what exactly is going on—which is maybe a little too unclear—but Bingo Hell is an entertaining ride through money hungry madness and a big fat Bingo! for Guerrero and her crew.
Test your luck and roll the dice on Bingo Hell. You want to be a winner, don’t you?
Bingo Hell is now available on Amazon Prime.
By Matt Konopka