Boys from County Hell (2021) is Viciously Fun and Fresh Irish Vampire Horror Film
Title: Boys from County Hell
First Wide Release: April 22, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Chris Baugh
Writer: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Starring: Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neil, Louisa Harland
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here (Shudder Exclusive)
Eugene (Jack Rowan) is coming to terms with the death of his best friend after just losing his mother when he begins work on an unpopular construction project in town. Part of their fellow townsfolk’s frustrations lie in decimating a popular tourist attraction that keeps the town’s economy above water. The grave of Abhartach, the vampire that was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, stands erect in an unassuming field yet pulls in enough fans from around the world to keep businesses open. All of that changes after his grave is bulldozed down and something is unleashed on the small community.
Boys from County Hell is a clever and charming vampire riot that adds its own unique twist to the fanged menace subgenre.
Beginning with a pitch-perfect cold open, the team behind Boys from County Hell prove that that they are not messing around with vampires. Balancing terror, mystery, and a bit of light comedy, it sets audiences up perfectly. The switches in vampire lore are subtle, but still unique enough to entice new and older viewers alike. Furthermore, the inclusion of a more primal vampire antagonist is welcome after over-saturation of more pretty and self-aware contemporaries. Obviously, I welcome all types, but it is nice to see the industry change it up every now and then.
We soon meet our protagonist Eugene, a down-on-his luck fella still processing the grief of losing his mother. Reserved and loyal to his friends, Eugene still feels lost and in need of direction in his life. He’ll soon get his chance after witnessing his best friend William (Fra Fee) get gored to death next to the grave of Abhartach. Things are looking pretty bleak in the aftermath as he is subsequently ostracized from his town for working on his father’s construction project which will mow down the tourist trap. That is until he is given the chance to take back control.
What makes Boys from County Hell a charming film is its devotion to sharing genuine moments of heartbreak interlaced between the monster mayhem. Death is a big part of the small-town community and for this specific moment in the character’s lives. There’s this ever-present message about moving on after death and doing things to live rather than merely survive. Death lingers far longer than what others might find acceptable, but it still hurts, nonetheless. It’s appropriate especially with Eugene, Francie, and Claire’s arcs, as well as George and Pauline’s too.
Beyond its plot and message, Boys from County Hell is a fun little film. Consistent characterizations, solid acting, and keeping the action moving, really helps pick up the pace, especially in the latter half when things get a bit bonkers. The lively soundtrack helps lean more heavily into the action and comedy of the horror and makes for some entertaining moments amidst the carnage. The creature effects not only look great but show great restraint in saving the monster for the end, which is always a plus in my book. It maintains the suspense and doesn’t overplay the film’s cards too quickly.
There are a few flaws present. It does take a while to get started, and probably longer than it really should. The Bogue house’s “good room” is a bizarre inclusion that sounds better in writing than in concept. It takes the viewer out of the experience for its pure silliness. Personally, Irish horror comedy is a bit easier for me to relate to compared to other countries outside of my own but even then, I had trouble understanding slang and accents. That’s to be expected from international imports so I can’t hold it against the team too much.
It doesn’t quite reach the expectations I had made for it but Boys from County Hell is still a solid vampire flick that goes out of its way to bring something new to the table. Strong characters, good writing, and great action sequences make for an incredibly easy watch. Light in tone and never dull, Boys from County Hell provides quality entertainment while still paying tribute and adding to the vast mythology of classical vampires. If you’re a fan of creatures of the night and Irish comedy, this is one film you’ll have to sink your teeth into at first opportunity.
Overall Score? 6.5/10