An opening scene with an elderly couple immediately sets the stage with gory visuals, and from that introduction, I knew Boys from County Hell would be something special. The new Irish vampire film from writer/director Chris Baugh (and co-writer Brendan Mullin) suggests that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a rip-off: the true OG king of the vampires was the legendary Abhartach. Eugene (Jack Rowan) and his pals make a game of toying with the tourists, fetching them from local pub The Stoker and scaring them at the burial cairn of Abhartach. When construction on a bypass commences and the cairn is disturbed, Eugene and those involved (including his father’s construction company) are in for a blood-sucking bad time.
Brilliant Irish humor punctuates the narrative and keeps the tone light even amongst the graphic violence. Specificity in the dark comedy could only come out of the UK; the outrageous situational humor pairs well with palpable suspense. The approach to vampires reminded me of Shaun of the Dead, and like that film, this one isn’t afraid to kill off major characters. One of the best gags comes near the conclusion, as a duo frantically searches for a way to defeat Abhartach. It’s a harrowing and impossibly silly moment that sealed my love for this bonkers horror flick.
Director Chris Baugh makes the decision to keep Abhartach in the shadows throughout, making his physical appearances meaningful and horrific. When he does appear, the vampire is not romanticized in the slightest—Abhartach himself is gnarly and freaky. Part of his power is the ability to pull the blood from your body just by his presence alone. This makes for easy bloodletting, and also provides a constant impending sense of doom.
I had a complete blast watching Boys from County Hell. I loved the relationship between father and son—in particular, I will be looking out for any further Jack Rowan projects. Though I only knew the actor from Peaky Blinders, he proves here that he is more than capable of carrying a film as the lead. The supporting cast serve to beef up many of the biggest laughs, and none are offered up solely as a disposable, body count check mark. A satisfying ending closes it out with a big bang and a perfect air of finality. If you find yourself bored with the same old vampire movies, Boys from County Hell and its signature brand of Irish humor is here to save the day.
Boys from County Hell comes to Shudder on Thursday, April 22nd.