When it comes to the origins of vampire lore, the rest of Europe always gets all the credit.
Dracula and Nosferatu, both based on Bram Stoker’s original character, are centered on the villain’s home in Romania. Browning and Murnau sprinkle in some England and Germany as well. But we don’t often associate vampires with Stoker’s home country of Ireland.
Boys From County Hell seeks to change all that. A vampire flick that plays by its own rules, Chris Baugh’s second feature is quick to establish the setup: The small town where Stoker used to live is the home of the original bloodthirsty creature that inspired his novel, and this proto-vampire’s body is still buried under a pile of rocks in a field. The locals are pretty proud of their tradition. Hell, they’ve even got a pub called The Stoker. (Pretty good name for an Irish bar, all things considered.)
The trouble starts when that pile of rocks—which is already on the chopping block due to a pending construction project—gets a taste of blood after two friends, Eugene and Will, have a fight that gets Will scraped up. Sure enough, the ancient creature that may or may not be a vampire (again, this film doesn’t play by the rules) is awakened and begins to wreak havoc on the locals.
From there, the film has its ups and downs. There are a couple of narrative threads that add to the story—a pair of father and son relationships as well as a cautionary tale angle about the dangers of abandoning tradition in favor of modernization—but it still mostly boils down to a handful of people on the run from monsters. The creature design is solid and the buckets of blood are expertly employed, but there aren’t any stand-out set pieces until the very end (which is too good to spoil). The performances across the board are all quite decent; nothing distractingly bad, but no one that’s award-worthy either.
But Boys From County Hell is a film that knows what it is. It’s a fun, gory ride that’s never boring. While local audiences probably won’t notice, the Irish flare does make it more enjoyable for American viewers than your standard stateside ghouls.
Perhaps the film’s only glaring flaw is a superficial one, but begs to be addressed nonetheless: At no point does any character actually say the title of the film. There’s simply no excuse for such an omission when your title is this good and the light-hearted, comical tone is begging for a name-drop. Even something a simple as a bystander proclaiming, “There go the boys from County Hell.” That would’ve done the trick.
That aside, the title is a pretty great indicator of what to expect of Boys From County Hell. It’s spooky, it’s silly, and it’s got enough heart to rise above mediocrity.
[Nightstream 2020] ‘Boys From County Hell’ Brings Vampire Lore Home to Ireland
Some solid effects, a healthy dose of heart, and a commitment to honoring Ireland’s premier horror author help ‘Boys From County Hell’ rise above mediocre vampire fare.