There aren’t a lot of production studios left that are devoted to horror. The two big ones that come to mind for me are Sam Raimi’s Ghosthouse Pictures and Blumhouse. Bingo Hell is the most recent film in the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series on Amazon Prime. If you aren’t familiar with the format, it is a series of films all produced and developed by Blumhouse Productions that are centered around a common theme. This one falls under the umbrella of “institutional horrors and personal phobias.” All of the films so far have been very similar in feel to their previous series, Into the Dark, that aired on Hulu. Each “episode” is a low budget affair that carries a runtime of around an hour and a half, but because of the similarity in production, each feature length film feels as though it is part of a television series.
Bingo Hell, directed by Gigi Saul Guererra, is set in the small “retirement” community of Oak Springs. Almost everyone in the town is older (I’ll refrain from using “elderly” in case you relate to the characters) and they are pretty resistant to change in their community. The ringleader of the town, Lupita (Adrianna Barraza), is a fiery Latina woman who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. She seems to know everyone’s business in the town and she is constantly bickering with the others in the community. Still, everyone loves her as she is the one who is always encouraging people to stick around. Completing the cast of characters is Delores (L. Scott Caldwell), a single grandparent who is raising her grandson along with her daughter-in-law, Morris (Clayton Landey) the resident handyman, Yolanda (Bertila Adams) the hairdresser, and Clarence (Grover Coulson) the retired guy who is obsessed with fixing up his old car. Everything seems pretty mundane in this town until they wake up one morning to find that their bingo hall is about to be sold to a large company.
Early on, it is established that no one in the town really has a lot of money. All of their big problems are solvable with cash, but as retirees most of them don’t have much to their name. Even their bingo nights have prizes that are mostly just donations from the other residents. When the new bingo hall comes to town and offers large cash prizes, it becomes pretty hard for the residents to resist its takeover. Run by Mr. Big (Richard Brake), the new Bingo Hall features flashy lights and games and the very first prize given out is $10,000, but something is seriously creepy about all of this. When Mr. Big. asks the characters what they want most they seem to win exactly that, but it only appears that way to them. Raquel (Kelly Murtagh) the daughter-in-law, tells Mr. Big that she wants a new life and then proceeds to win the money. After her shopping spree, she sees herself in a fancy new dress and furs and staying in a fancy hotel. However, in reality, she is in a complete dump of a hotel. As she tries to take her new dress off in this imaginary world, her actual self is tearing off her own flesh!
All of the actors in Bingo Hell are giving it their all with the performances, but the standout in the film is Richard Brake. I know that you may not know the name, but you have definitely seen him before. Most notably, he played the Night King in HBO’s Game of Thrones and has had parts in The Mandalorian, Rob Zombie’s 31, and Mandy. His face is instantly recognizable and the guy is so much fun to watch every time he turns up. He’s really good at playing a charismatic bastard of a character, and Mr. Big is no different. Like a sleazy used car salesman, Mr. Big sells the residents of Oak Springs a dream that has a very sinister reality, leading several to their deaths. I’ll get to the reasons you should check the movie out later, but trust me, Richard Brake’s performance is devilishly good.
I have always taken these Blumhouse Productions serial films at face value. They are low budget movies intended to give opportunities to directors and actors that otherwise wouldn’t get their projects greenlit in Hollywood because they are more or less unknown. I have always loved this idea because there are a ton of talented directors, actors, and writers out there who just never made it to the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, sometimes the budget for these films falls short of the vision. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some really fun entries, but I have found them as a whole pretty hit or miss. Thankfully, Bingo Hell hits the mark as it successfully blends a social commentary on gentrification with quite a bit of comedy and brutal violence.
Sadly, I feel that most of the entries in this series end up being not that memorable. They are always fun to watch, but there isn’t a lot that keeps me coming back to them. In the end, they just become another episode in the ongoing series. While I had a lot of fun with Bingo Hell, it isn’t a film that I will be thinking about years down the road. Sure, I might remember some scenes here and there, but it certainly wouldn’t land a spot on my shelf. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though as the film was undoubtedly entertaining, and isn’t that what we are really asking for when we sit down for something like this? If you have enjoyed any of the other entries from Welcome to the Blumhouse, you owe it to yourself to check out Bingo Hell and even if you haven’t seen any of the others, you can’t go wrong with a silly hour and a half horror flick.
Bingo Hell was screened as part of the 2021 Fantastic Fest.