I also had the opportunity to speak with Robert Benjamin to discuss the origins of the story of BLOODY HELL and the character of Rex and his Conscience. You will be happy to note that he’s a big horror and action film fan, so it makes sense that his mind would create a script packed with elements of both genres. We also talk about the comedic elements of the film as they relate to The Conscience and the practicality of talking to yourself in real life, especially in life or death situations.
I’ll start at the beginning. Was the idea for BLOODY HELL originally yours?
Robert Benjamin: Yeah, it was mine and I actually wrote it and it was the Australian producers at Collective Vision who were looking for something new, so I just presented them with the script and that’s how it happened.
I don’t want to ask the terribly cliched question, but I am curious, where did the idea come from? I don’t know if you would call it a horror-comedy, but it’s definitely very intense and funny.
Robert Benjamin: I’m glad you asked that question. Actually, I wouldn’t even consider it a horror movie. Which is odd because that’s what I set out to write: a horror movie. I didn’t set out to write a comedy, it’s just with the introduction of The Conscience that the humor just kind of flowed. So, ultimately at the end of the day, I feel it’s more like a dark comedic thriller than anything else.
How did The Conscience come in?
Robert Benjamin: I’ll tell you the whole story because it sets up how it came about. When I was traveling, I was traveling to see my brother I think, and I was on a tram and there was a family of foreigners. I think they were probably Eastern European and they were chatting. One of the women would look at me, smile, look back, chat, look at me and smile looking back at me. And I’m like what are they talking about? They’re probably just being friendly. But I started thinking in my paranoid brain: what would I do if I hypothetically woke up in a basement, tied up? I went to a gift shop and bought a pad and started jotting down ideas. And I found that I started arguing with myself. I started thinking, “well you would start going through all the luggage and you would see what weapons you could find. You would untie the rope with your teeth and do this and that and the other side of me was like, “no you wouldn’t, you would be panicking and you would be crying and you’d be waiting to die.”
And I just had this verbal back and forth with myself and I thought that that would actually be fun to explore if I split those two thought processes into two different characters. You know it could have been a complete disaster and as I was writing it, I really didn’t know how it would come across in production and I didn’t really worry about it at the time. I just wrote what I thought would work and fortunately, it did with a huge help from Ben [O’Toole]. It actually worked pretty well.
I’m going to ask you this question: a lot of people do talk to themselves and but then again, some people think that’s really weird. But it’s not. I think it’s actually really healthy and the thing that I thought about the character was that he obviously had some kind of traumatizing events that happened in his past. Is it just that he went to war and the stuff that he saw during that time or do you think that maybe he had a past that was already bad to start with?
Robert Benjamin: That’s a great question. I think that he believes it’s from the war. I think that’s what he tells himself but, in all honesty, I think he’s just that person. It’s even in the movie, where The Conscience says, “I was with you way before that.” I, myself, I talk to myself all time and I think that for a lot of people, it’s this coping mechanism. You need to talk to someone. So I think he’s had this, not to quote Dexter, but this “passenger” with him for quite a while. But really wasn’t aware of it until he absolutely needed to be, which was in prison. When he felt alone and needed someone to rely on. So that’s why I think he actually noticed. But The Conscience has been there for quite a long time.
Okay, and why Finland?
Robert Benjamin: That’s a good question and a lot of people are curious about that.
Robert Benjamin: The family that I mentioned before, I think they were Eastern European – but they could have been from anywhere, but I figured, yeah, they could be from Finland. But also, I loved the Hell in Helsinki. I really thought that the BOI to HEL on the ticket stub really made it, um, it really sold me on the concept.
Oh no, it’s a great little resonance of, wait a minute, HELL? Wasn’t it always about a family that had a monster in it? Like a literal monster or was it maybe a family that just likes to do horrible things to people?
Robert Benjamin: So, it was always a family with a dark family member. I think in an earlier draft, they were all of that same mentality. I don’t want to say the word, but you know, they were all of that fiendish habit. As more people read the script and we got more feedback, people said, “what if what if it was this one figure? That had this habit and needs to be met and the rest of the family were just helping him? So, it evolved from an entire family doing this to a family supporting their family member. So it always had that situation in it, but it became more defined as we went through the process.
The way the story progresses, it just seems like bad stuff keeps happening to him. He’s a tough guy and he can get through it, but the bad stuff keeps coming. Was that something that you always intended or was that just part of the process?
Robert Benjamin: My thought was this: this is if you take an action hero like John McClane and put him into a horror movie. A very, very capable person, what would they do and what would they want to do?
If they were thrust into this horror movie. But the limitation would be, well what if he can’t? So there are always these things that he wants to do and that he knows he can do, if he could just get this rope untied. Which is the one thing that he cannot do. That was always my intention: to make him suffer as much as possible, until potentially he had the ability to do what he does best.
I’m just curious because in a lot of these types of movies, even regular thrillers, when somebody’s confronted with a really horrible situation, a kidnapping or whatever, not even what’s going on here. They don’t know what to do, they scream, they cry, they run, and obviously, he’s not in a position to do any of those things. Was that just part of the character or was it that that’s what you wanted to do. Did you want to show somebody who’s the opposite in this type of situation?
Robert Benjamin: For me, writing these two characters, I always like to say that Rex and his Conscience are me, if I were a lot cooler and a lot more capable. So this was kind of like a macho fantasy of what I think I would do or what I wish I could do if I were in these situations. I’m including the bank robbery in this, if I was in that situation, the reality is I would probably duck and cover and wait for it to end. But in my head, I would think, no you wouldn’t, you would grab the nearest weapon and you would end these mother-effers, you know what I mean? So this was kind of just exploring a character that is that. And I took it as far as I could go, just to see what would happen.
At first, there’s the bank teller that he’s obviously got a crush on, and then again when he’s in this other terrible situation, there’s another woman, the character of Alia. Was that meant to be a new situation that mirrors the other?
Robert Benjamin: Yeah, I think that’s exactly what it was. He lived this past life with this past interest and his decisions in this extreme moment got him thrust into prison. So he had to take everything he knew about that situation and apply it to the current situation. That’s why he has a moment of struggle with what he should do regarding this girl, because the last time he tried to help it cost him dearly.
I noticed that you’ve actually written a number of shorts and you did some additional writing on a film called Welcome to Acapulco that was more of a comedy.
Robert Benjamin: That was a huge comedy and an interesting thing that happened, I was asked to edit the movie and while I was editing it, I changed some plotlines around and they gave me additional writer credit, so I took it. It wasn’t nearly as involved as sitting down and writing this movie. That’s a completely different kind of movie, it’s a very slapstick-y, funny, wacky comedy.
So, is comedy kind of your chosen area, or are you just looking to like work in different genres?
Robert Benjamin: That’s an interesting question because, before this, I would say that comedy was not my area. I love horror. I love action. I think comedy comes naturally. I was intending to write a horror movie, a scary movie with BLOODY HELL. A very intense, dark, and WT-EFF kind of movie, and the comedy just kind of came. I think it’s just part of the nature of the situation that he finds himself in. For example, when I thought, what if he thinks that he’s lighter, in that moment, when he’s pulling himself up? I’m thinking, do I go that route with it? Because if I go that route with the script, I’ve got to continue it. So ultimately, I chose to see where that comedy landed me and I think it works well and now, I would consider it a dark comedic thriller and not a horror movie at all.
You were very successful, the balancing act of the script, because there are parts of it that are truly horrifying and while you may not consider it a horror film, that actually you are very successful in making something that is really pretty scary.
Robert Benjamin: That’s good to hear because, for me – a horror fan, I am pretty jaded. Nothing really scares me anymore, so it’s hard to decipher whether or not that comes through. So I really appreciate you saying that because it is, in reality, a very intense and horrifying situation that he finds himself in.
The humor, rather than making it less scary, actually counterbalances the subject matter and makes it more effective in my opinion.
Robert Benjamin: Thanks.
I highly recommend BLOODY HELL and was very pleased to hear how the story came to be. I’m very interested in hearing about what Benjamin’s next project will be and I hope that you will enjoy watching the film yourself so you can check out the dark and hilarious wonderland that the writer, the filmmakers, and the actors have created.
BLOODY HELL is available now on Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu VOD. It is also now available on Blu-ray and DVD. To learn more about the film, check out our review and our interview with Meg Fraser and Ben O’Toole.