People love vampires. Ever since the release of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, vampires have gripped on to the public consciousness and have never let go. But there is a bit of a formula when it comes to bringing vampires to life onscreen. You have the sucking of blood with gnarly fang-to-neck action, bursting to flames in the sunlight, aversions to the cross or garlic, etc. So, when someone comes along and breathes new life into the supernatural creature we all know and love, it’s difficult not to pay attention This is exactly what Chris Baugh accomplishes in BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL and this reviewer implores you not to look away from this film. You’ll be disappointed if you do.
When you see blood leaking from a variety of orifices, you can’t help but take notice. And that’s how Baugh grabs viewers’ attention in BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL before taking us back to the beginning. In Six Mile Hill, most known for the famed author Bram Stoker traveling through the town and drawing inspiration from the Irish vampire legend of Abhartach, a prime construction project threatens to uproot the town. Francie Moffat (Nigel O’Neill) wins the contract for the project, drawing ire from the townsfolk. His son, Eugene (Jack Rowan), is also given the hairy eyeball due in part to his lack of life direction and drive. Essentially, when he’s not drinking himself to death or making fun of tourists coming to check out the cairn over Abhartach’s grave, he’s just existing.
One fateful night with his best friend, William (Fra Fee), he witnesses both the death of his friend at the cairn and imagines blood being sucked up from the ground beneath them. Now, with the town hating him for the death of his friend, Eugune has to do something. And, in predictably poor form, he decides to take the lead on his dad’s project in destroying the cairn – the one thing that keeps them from doing the job successfully. Unfortunately, Eugene and the crew soon learn that the cairn was, indeed, keeping things from destroying the town. And, over the course of the next 48 hours, the team is forced to fight to survive the night, protect the town, and find a way to keep this darkness from leaving the town or else the world will be doomed.
Right off the bat, BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL stands out due to its top-notch handling of humor. This is in part due to the script and direction from Baugh and the delivery from the actors onscreen. There’s a fair amount of elbow jabbing directed at Stoker, but it sets up the stakes (no pun intended) for what’s to come. For the town of Six Mile Hill, its continued longevity is due to relying on the famed author’s travels through the town. This amounts to some well-placed teasing early on by Eugene and his friends. But, when shit starts hitting the fan, Baugh circles back around to craft some humorous exchanges as the crew debates which one of Stoker’s methods featured in Dracula can actually work against the now awakened Irish vampire. Either way, it’s going to be difficult for anyone not to laugh during this film. There’s a meta-ness to it that lands perfectly and, for the horror fan, it’ll be an adventure to pick out certain nods to different horror films throughout.
As mentioned previously, the performances from the cast really help to land the humor interwoven through Baugh’s script. Eugene, played by Jack Rowan, is relatable as heck. From this reviewer’s perspective, BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL is Eugene’s coming-of-age tale, and Rowan lands those emotional beats that keep the film from veering too far left field in overly silly territory. And, the way the story is laid out, the coming-of-age arc feels earned. Nigel O’Neill’s gruff machismo-driven Francie works well off of Rowan’s more free-spirited Eugene, with both characters learning from each other as shit gets all too real. Louisa Harland’s Claire McCann feels more underdeveloped on paper, but Harland grounds the character in a way that makes the character less forgettable onscreen. Michael Hough’s SP is uplifted by Hough’s comedic chops but, much like the character Claire, the character feels a bit underdeveloped.
Now, for the vampire shenanigans that take place onscreen. Where Baugh really acquires interest is by delivering us vampire lore that batters against what the audience would expect. Abhartach doesn’t have to venture out to get its blood. As is hinted in the opening scene, this vampire baddie’s presence can make blood drain from people’s orifices to come to him. This approach is used both to horrify and amuse. Seriously, there’s a scene later in the film that makes this reviewer want to let men know that, if this happens to you, please go see a doctor. Another added highlight and surprise to vampire folklore introduced in BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL is how vampires are made. This reviewer will keep the spoilers for this out of this review, but would be fascinated to hear what other viewers think of it. It is fascinating the implications that could arise from it.
There’s a lot to be taken in from BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL. It is heartfelt, comedic, horrifying, and more. While the humor seems to be the primary focus of this film, the relationship between Eugene and his father, Francie, is the heart and soul. The story itself focuses on Eugene, Francie, and the rest of the crew trying to figure out how to defeat Abhartach, there is a lot of growth happening onscreen. And, honestly, the relatability of Eugene feeling stuck and lost is one that will resonate with many. While some of the characters involved in the hijinks onscreen could have been fleshed out a wee more, that doesn’t take away from this fun, uniquely delivered adventure in the town of Six Mile Hill. Please advised, though, that you’ll need subtitles for this. The Irish brogue is strong.
BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 22nd in the US and Canada, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.