Gigi Saul Guerrero (director)
01 October 2021 (released)
03 October 2021
Opening with a man dancing around a room then stuffing his face with what look like sugary bingo balls to his death, Bingo Hell gives a first impression that this may not be too serious a film, at first.
The town of Oak Springs, is for some of the residents, dying. Lupita (Adriana Barraza) sees a (her?) town drifting away into a coffee bar and hipster haven. A gentrification of the town with the ensuing rise in costs hurting the locals. It’s a double edge sword though as the town left to its own devices barely functions due to de-population, leaving an ageing community.
To make matters worse the tired old bingo hall (that bears no sign of gentrification) has been sold and is now in the hands of a Mr Big (Richard Brake) a cowboy hatted, cliché spouting showman who is drawing in the locals with every increasing prizes.
It becomes the be all and end all of the community as they mindlessly attend in the hope of a win. But the winners don’t get quite what they expected which leads Lupita and some of the others to investigate further into Mr Big and themselves and their aspirations.
Bingo Hell is a deceptive film with Gigi Saul Guerrero (co written with Shane McKenzie and Perry Blackshear) juggling various contemporary topics and genres. It’s top heavy with comedy and horror with neither really working well in tandem rather there are good horror bits and good comedy bits.
What works more effectively is when they are looking at social issues and the effects on the long-term local inhabitants who are (or feel) excluded by the incomers and wealth pouring into the town.
And while the focus is generally on the elderly who can’t or won’t leave, the younger townsfolk are affected too, hit by poor prospects and unable to compete financially. That said it’s not that grim with satire on consumerism in the shape of Mr Big played with some aplomb by Brake. Barraza is very good too as the town’s perceived battle-axe though all she is doing is trying to maintain a community.
Bingo Hell is part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse Collection and is available now on Amazon Prime.