In the blackly comic horror movie “Bloody Hell,” Ben O’Toole plays an affable everyman with a violent streak. His character Rex Coen is a veteran, coping with PTSD by carrying on conversations in his head with his own id (also played by O’Toole). It’s a lively and risky performance, given that Rex’s inner voice sometimes urges him to shoot his enemies.
The film as a whole isn’t quite as good as its star — mainly because screenwriter Robert Benjamin and director Alister Grierson try to squeeze in too much plot, at the expense of thematic coherence.
“Bloody Hell” begins with a bank robbery in Boise, Idaho, which the bystander Rex breaks up after commandeering one of the crooks’ guns. Playing the hero makes him an internet superstar but also lands him in jail for manslaughter. When Rex is released, he ducks his notoriety by taking a trip to Finland. Not long after he arrives, he’s abducted by a freaky family, who chains him up in a basement and starts sawing off his limbs.
That’s a lot of ground to cover in one picture; and Benjamin and Grierson add even more when Rex meets Alia (Meg Fraser), the one member of his sicko captors’ clan who might help him escape. The filmmakers have fun with their cartoonish villains and their crackpot hero; but the various jagged pieces of the story, while admirably unpredictable, also feel disconnected.
Still, better to have too many ideas than too few. Everyone involved with “Bloody Hell” is doing their jobs with creativity and gusto, even if it’s hard to discern any larger point.
Rating: R, for bloody violence, gore, and language throughout
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Available Jan. 14 on VOD and in limited release where theaters are open