Star Rating:

Boys from County Hell

Director: Chris Baugh

Actors: Jack Rowan, John Lynch, Louisa Harland, Nigel O'Neill

Release Date: Friday 6th August 2021

Genre(s): Comedy, Horror

Running time: 90 minutes

In the rural village of Six Mile Hill, a cairn believed to mark the site of an ancient vampire is knocked over during the construction of a bypass led by Francie Moffat (Nigel O'Neill) and his son, Eugene (Jack Rowan). While the road crew are skeptical at first, the piling body-count begs to differ and soon, all of Six Mile Hill is under threat...

From the very outset, what's intriguing about 'Boys From County Hell' is how sharply it captures the rural experience and the innate boredom that comes with it. The opening scene has Eugene and William, played by Jack Rowan and Fra Fee respectively, taking the piss out of Canadian tourists as they recount the origin story of an ancient vampire buried underneath a cairn. Just as the tourists wander off annoyed with their antics, they crack pen a couple of tins of cheap booze as Horslips' 1974 rock hit, 'Dearg Doom' cracks into life.

The lazy comparison would be to draw a line between something like Edgar Wright's 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Boys From County Hell'. Meandering, aimless lead who likes to drink is dropped into horror scenario with comedic results, must learn courage to save the day. You can see how it's made, but the fact is 'Boys From County Hell' has far more going on underneath the surface. The flavour of comedy on display in Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin's script is so distinctly Irish that it wouldn't be at all surprising if some of the jokes flew over the heads of an audience beyond our borders, not to mention the thick accents as well. There's a bleakness to the humour, flavoured with cynicism and nonchalance, that can't be replicated and when mixed into a typical horror sequence, it just makes it even more funny. Imagine your typical builder-type Irish 'oul lad encountering a vampire, complete with the shirt tucked into jeans and a bodywarmer. That's Nigel O'Neill's world-weary Francie in a nutshell.

The central villain of the piece, as well, is a curiously Irish take on the horror character. Yes, Abhartach is a vampire, but he's also a landowner who sucks the blood dry from the people around him as it drains out of them by osmosis. Although Abhartach is an old Irish legend, what's interesting is that he's only brought to the surface by a road bypass that Francie has agreed to build as his business is in dire need of work. Likewise, the construction of the bypass will effectively decimate the town itself if Abhartach doesn't do it sooner.

The cast are more than capable of blending the deadpan comedy with horror in an effective way, especially the off-the-cuff remarks that give 'Boys From County Hell' some of its biggest laughs. For example, a phone call to the local cop shop trying to explain the supernatural terror about to befall Six Mile Hill makes for a hilarious setup. If there's a complaint to be made about 'Boys From County Hell', it's that there's an issue of pacing and rhythm. There's a few of the sequences are drawn out to a point of it losing tension, but it's in the minority.

'Boys From County Hell' is a fiendishly enjoyable horror comedy with authentic performances by its cast, and a slyly funny take on the vampire trope.