From Nosferatu to What We Do in the Shadows, the influence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula still persists a little more than a century after its publishing. While the novel’s vampire is a Romanian nobleman and a good portion of the novel is set in Eastern Europe, legend says some inspiration for the titular bloodsucker lies closer to the author’s hometown. Boys from County Hell, the third feature from Irish director Chris Braugh, is a venture into the more homespun origins of Stoker’s seminal novel rife with humor and plenty of the old ultraviolence.
The film follows a small crew of unambitious young road workers in a small village coasting off Bram Stoker’s life and legacy. Eugene (Jack Rowan) and his friends take the lore of Six Mile Hill —the local landmark said to have inspired Stoker — with a grain of salt and opt to con tourists that enter the local pub they frequent into following them to the moors complete with several An American Werewolf in London callbacks. The first act does little in terms of action and instead seeks to thoroughly establish each character; unfortunately, with the exception of the comic relief SP (Michael Hough), the majority of the main cast is a little bland and the internal conflicts a bit overdone. The most important bit of establishing characters is the beyond strained relationship between Eugene and his land developer father Francie (Nigel O’Neill) that catalyses the more exciting bits of the plot into motion.
All hell breaks loose around half an hour into the movie while in the heat of a strained argument near the site of Francie’s construction crews’ latest demolition project on Six Mile Hill, William (Fra Fee) is suddenly impaled against the structure of stones said to hide Ireland’s unfriendly neighbourhood vampire. From here the comedy begins to play second fiddle in favour of more blood and guts provided in abundance by the recently awakened undead. Braugh’s take on Stoker’s monster is not the sexy, alluring figure of recent years: for the majority of its appearances it’s not shown on screen or is mostly obscured in shadow, and when the Abhartasch (Robert Nairne) finally shows its full form it’s closer to a half-rotted Nosferatu. The effects of the vampire’s attacks, however, are gnarly; this take on vampires doesn’t daintily bite the neck and suck the blood, and it doesn’t turn people. It opts to either slowly leak the blood from the victim or tear through flesh and sinew. Victims of the latter option become rabid zombie-like creatures without the power to force others into the same condition. Through pretty standard vampire-killing means, Eugene and crew hunt and destroy the vampire thus proving the legend and saving most of the village.
Boys from County Hell is another interesting take on Bram Stoker’s vampire lore opting to stick closer to dry, dark humour than to drama, love triangles, and extended fight sequences. Some of the plot beats are tired and the character choices predictable, but between the nasty gore effects resulting from the Abhartasch’s wrath and the chemistry between the characters makes up for the shortcomings. In the steadily elongating list of horror comedies, Boys from County Hell is a worthy addition.
Boys from County Hell screened as part of the virtual Nightstream Festival 2020. It had its North American premiere on October 10th
Red (they/them) is an English literature student based out of the swamp that is Florida. Their bread and butter is horror movies — the cheesier the better — but if someone puts on a Wes Anderson or Hayao Miyazaki movie they won’t complain. Their favourite movies are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dogtooth, Sorry to Bother You, and The Muppet Movie.
You can find them on Instagram and Twitter @tapewormg0d and Letterboxd @tapewormgod.
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