How did you expect it to be?
I appreciate Jason Blum as a person. Blumhouse might produce a lot of absolute crap films, but you have to hand it to the studio; they give a lot of directors the chance to make their visions come true. And Jason Blum himself is pretty well known for giving creative freedom and taking risks in a way that other production houses are unwilling to. Also Blumhouse isn’t anywhere near the level of trite shit as Asylum films, who mostly exist to distract Tara Reid and stop her from snorting big fat piles of cocaine and butt chugging jaegerbombs.
The studio has somewhat perfected the art of low-to-mid-range budget shlocky horror nonsense and in many cases even found a way to make a ton of profit off of it. The original Paranormal Activity was shot on a film budget roughly equivalent to a Snickers bar and made nearly $200 million at the box office. Meanwhile Blumhouse succeeded where Universal and that hack fraud Alex Kurtzman failed. While The Mummy was a $200 million failure that lost the studio likely around $100 million and single-handedly tanked the Universal Monsterverse, Blumhouse rebooted the series with The Invisible Man and on a budget of $7 million made over $140 million in sales.
Bingo Hell is one of those films where you know from the title how much tolerance you have for the premise. Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, Bingo Hell is a movie about an evil bingo game that preys on the greed and desires of the people who play in it. The main characters are Lupita (Adriana Barraza, aka the maid lady from Rambo: Old Blood) and Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell, aka Poole from the Harrison Ford flick The Fugitive) as two old ladies who become suspicious when the bingo hall is taken over by new management. The new owner Mr. Big is played by Richard Brake, aka The Chemist in the Nicolas Cage led Mandy. Mr. Big is promising big money to whoever wins his bingo game, but every victory has a price.
The problem is that the winners are turning up dead in rather gruesome incidents. Lupita and Dolores have their own problems, as Lupita sees her old neighborhood being gentrified, and Dolores deals with her troubled live-in daughter-in-law (Kelly Murtagh) and grandson (Joshua Caleb Johnson) who can’t stop fighting. Also her grandson is a dirty dirty thief boy. Lupita and Dolores are the only ones who can free their town from the evil Mr. Big and learn a lesson about community in the process.
As with many Blumhouse films of this style, it feels like the writers have a dartboard covered with nouns to fill their pitch of “it’s a movie about an evil ____”. Then they sprinkle pcp on a doobie and light up.
Only Blumhouse and a few other studios would be willing to cast actors of a certain age in leading roles of an action film, let alone showcase those characters suffering horrendous deaths. If Bingo Hell gets one thing right it’s the absolutely disgusting ways that characters die in this film. My favorite is a character graphically ripping her own skin off while laughing gleefully.
In second place I’d put the casting, especially Richard Brake as the charismatic villain whom the audience should immediately recognize as the slimy greaseball he is. I think most people have had that outsider position watching someone get conned and wondering why they’re falling for it, and that’s basically the audience’s job here.
Where Bingo Hell gets it wrong lies in the social commentary. I mentioned in my review of Candyman that the film fell short with characters mumbling the word gentrification from time to time. Compared to Bingo Hell’s comments on gentrification, Candyman looks like a masterpiece of literary genius. Guerrero loves Snorricam shots, and uses them to bad effect, as well as pitched angled shots.
What Bingo Hell isn’t is a horror film, as that would imply an attempt at trying to scare the viewer. Its greatest sin is that it’s just boring. You could have cut Bingo Hell into a standard television episode length show and lost nothing of value. Simply put, barely anything of interest happens over much of the 90 minute run time. The actual fight doesn’t happen until the final seven minutes of the movie and there isn’t even a decent buildup. The deaths are great though, as the film cuts between the victim’s fantasy world and reality and you see the Budweiser they’re chugging is actually motor oil.
When Blumhouse gets serious they make some good movies. Halloween, Us, hell even The Purge flicks. This is not one of those films. Unfortunately Bingo Hell rides in that bad middle point where it’s not serious enough to be a horror movie or a good Blumhouse flick, while not being witty or cleverly written enough to be a shlocky grindhouse style film. What it is mostly is a waste of an hour and a half.
If you’re going to watch a cheap “horror” flick, there are so many better options.