Boys From County Hell: Irish Horror-Comedy Puts Dracula Legend On Its Head

Fun little piece of trivia – Dracula author Bram Stoker was Irish. It’s a fun tidbit that Irish writer and director Chris Baugh puts to good use in his horror-comedy, Boys From County Hell. But if Baugh uses Stoker’s Irish legacy, it’s only as a springboard to tell his own story. What Boys From County Hell promises horror fans is a an irreverent take on the centuries-old legend. After decades of vampire movies, Baugh’s subversion of the narrative isn’t necessarily a new direction. However, the Irish filmmaker’s embedding of vampire folklore into a family ‘dramedy’ promises at the very least a fun take on the legend. You can find Boys From County Hell streaming on Shudder.

Synopsis

In the small Irish village of Six Mile Hill, Eugene and his mates pass the time between pints at the local pub and pranking tourists. Six Mile Hill’s only claim to fame is the local legend of blood-drinking local, Abhartach, who locals believe inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A cairn, or pile of stones, considered Abhartach’s burial site, commemorates the tale. But a new highway development threatens the landmark. And when tragedy strikes, Eugene and the townspeople must prepare themselves for a confrontation with a legend that may have more than a bit of truth to it.

Boys From County Hell Mostly Nails Its Mix of Horror and Comedy

Nearly a century ago, Nosferatu introduced vampires to the silver screen. While horror directors have traditionally moulded zombies to fit their subtext, vampire lore has typically been less malleable. Occasionally, horror has tinkered with the vampire formula. Eighties cult classic Near Dark remains one of best contemporary vampire movies. And HBO series True Blood often doubled as a metaphor for LGBTQ politics. So Boys of County Hell isn’t the first vampire movie to tinker with the formula. But when Baugh’s horror comedy is firing on all cylinders, it’s usually due to the twists to vampire legend. Adopting a less is more approach, Baugh doesn’t overexpose his vampires. Some of the visuals – particularly the way in which vampire draws blood from his victims’ orifices – also make for a memorable visual. Though not all the jokes land, it’s usually when characters discover how useless legend is for killing their vampire.

Adopting a less is more approach, Baugh doesn’t overexpose his vampires.

Like other winning horror comedies, Boys From County Hell isn’t all about vampires and oozing blood. Clearly Baugh intends his movie to be just as much a dramedy. Unfortunately, this is where Boys From County Hell becomes very much a mixed bag. Baugh and co-writer Brendan Mullin want audiences to invest as much in the characters as the vampire fun. Still there’s a little too much going, which dilutes the story. From planned highways through the town to strained father-and-son relationships to strained relationships, Baugh and Mullin load up on familiar plot threads. None of these elements ever feel as impactful as intended.

Vampire Fun Too Often Gives Way To Familiar Family Drama

With somewhat of a paucity of scares, Baugh compensates with some fun blood and gore. As previously mentioned, Abhartach’s ability to draw blood from his victims’ orifices creates some wickedly fun visuals. An early death scene is both unique and genuinely shocking. While Boys From County Hell uses its vampires sparingly, the designs and effects never betray the movie’s modest budget. In addition, Baugh concocts a few wickedly fun vampire killing scenes, including a grotesquely clever use of a body part as a weapon. However, Baugh’s dramedy elements too often interrupt the movie’s fun. In particular, the movie’s middle act sucks out the momentum from the story.

While Boys From County Hell uses its vampires sparingly, the designs and effects never betray the movie’s modest budget.

Across the board, Boys From County Hells’ performances are strong. If the characters are familiar, the cast provides the required affability. As Eugene, Jack Rowan brings enough charm to elevate the role above the rote characterization. Shudder fans will recognize John Lynch (The Banishing) in his second featured release in as many weeks. And for the second straight week, Lynch gives the best performance of the movie. Everyone else plays a type rather than a believable person. You’ll instantly recognize the burly sidekick as the comic relief.

Boys From County Hell Enough Fun To Warrant A Look

Not everything about Boys From County Hell works. As far as horror comedies go, Baugh’s Irish spin on Dracula tries to do a bit too much. There’s a lot of characters and a lot of relationships comprising this horror ‘dramedy’. Some jokes and visuals work, others fall flat. Things also start to feel stretched in the movie’s middle act. Nonetheless, Boys From County Hell makes for a night in front of the television well spent. If it’s not on the same level as a Shaun of the Dead, it’s still worth a look.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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