Bingo Hell

In the Barrio of Oak Springs live a strong and stubborn group of elderly friends who refuse to be gentrified. Their leader, Lupita, keeps them together as a community, a family. But little did they know, their beloved Bingo hall is about to be sold to a much more powerful force than money itself.

As part of our October HorrorFest, we will be posting new reviews of relatively recent horror films during the month of October

A small community's bingo hall gets taken over by a sinister force in . Oak Springs is a small community undergoing gentrification, which annoys lifelong resident Lupita (), who leads a group of elders that includes Dolores (), Morris (Clayton Landey), Yolanda (Bertila Damas), and Clarence (Grover Coulson). One day, Lupita and the others are shocked to discover that Oak Springs' community centre has been turned into a casino-like bingo hall run by Mr. Big (), who promises big money prizes every night. However, it soon turns out that those who win big, end up paying the ultimate price.

Bingo Hell is the sophomore feature from Mexican-Canadian filmmaker (Culture Shock), produced as part of Blumhouse Productions' four-part anthology for Amazon Prime Video Welcome to the Blumhouse. The film focuses on Mexican-immigrant woman Lupita, who hosts weekly bingo nights at the Oak Springs Community Centre and frowns at how the community is being taken over by big franchises and vaping stores. Lupita frequently vents her frustrations towards her friends, particularly Dolores, who has her own problems with her troublemaking grandson Caleb () and his deadbeat mother Raquel (Kelly Murtagh). However, things become sinister with the arrival of the mysterious Mr. Big, who takes over the community centre and immediately provides large payouts at his nightly bingo events. However, it soon turns out that those who win at Mr. Big's Bingo end up facing deadly consequences.

After developing a name for herself with the shorts she has produced with her Luchagore Production company, Gigi Saul Guerrero has received a number of directing opportunities by Blumhouse, whether it be directing an episode of The Purge TV series or making her feature film debut with 2019's Culture Shock, which was produced as part of the Blumhouse Television Hulu anthology series Into the Dark. Like Culture ShockBingo Hell is once again a Blumhouse Television Production, this time as part of the Amazon Studios series Welcome to the Blumhouse, which consists of four films released as weekly double features.

Tonally, Bingo Hell is quite similar thematically to Culture Shock, since both films seem to be about the dark side of the American dream. In the case of Bingo Hell, the antagonist Mr. Big, played by character actor Richard Brake (Rob Zombie's 31), causes his bingo winners to have visions of their wildest dreams, though, in reality, he is leading them to gruesome deaths. Indeed, the gory horror set-pieces are the strongest element of Bingo Hell, which ultimately feels much more like an episode of a television series than a proper feature film.

Even though Gigi Saul Guerrero co-wrote Bingo Hell with regular collaboration Shane McKenzie, as well as Perry Blackshear (They Look Like PeopleWhen I Consume You), I am left wondering how much creative freedom Guerrero has had in her collaborations with Blumhouse Productions, since neither Culture Shock nor Bingo Hell feels like they came from the same filmmaker who made the incredibly dark and gory 2014 short El Gigante. That said, I do have to praise Bingo Hell for being one of the rare horror films to feature elderly protagonists, with Gigi Saul Guerrero even including a dedication at the end to her grandmother. While Bingo Hell as a whole has its issues, at the very least Guerrero has her heart in the right place.

Bingo Hell is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video as part of Welcome to the Blumhouse

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.