Bingo Hell Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Amazon Studios | Blumhouse

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Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero
Written by Shane McKenzie, Gigi Saul Guerrero, and Perry Blackshear
2021, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 1st, 2021

Adriana Barraza as Lupita
L. Scott Caldwell as Dolores
Richard Brake as Mr. Big
Bertila Damas as Yolanda
Joshua Caleb Johnson as Caleb
Jonathan Medina as Eric
Clayton Landey as Morris
Grover Coulson as Clarence
David Jensen as Mario
Kelly Murtagh as Raquel
Gigi Saul Guerrero as Hipster Girl

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There are few people working in film today turning as many heads on the way up as Gigi Saul Guerrero. She’s leading the pack of new Latinx talent not only with pinup beauty and legit acting prowess but a directing eye far ahead of her years behind the lens. I had never heard of her when I reviewed Culture Shock back in 2019, but you’d better believe I unfucked that happy crappy in record time after being floored by such an impressive debut feature.

In her sophomore feature film, Guerrero turns her eye to the soon-to-be gentrified community of Oak Springs. It’s a neighborhood on the way out, but the elderly residents who’ve been holding the fort since the Nixon administration aren’t ready to give their hood up to the hipsters who are trying to overwhelm the block with overpriced coffee shops and brightly colored storefronts. At least Lupita (Adriana Barraza; Drag Me To Hell) isn’t ready. Her best friend, Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell; LOST), is trying to help raise her grandson, Caleb (Joshua Caleb Johnson; Black-ish), despite the immaturity and selfishness of his mother, Raquel (Kelly Murtagh; The Purge TV series). The others in the motley crew of advanced age are all pretty down and out, but they still love to get together at the local community center for Bingo Night and crack a couple of beers. Their community comes alive when one of their own sells the community center to a man known only as Mr. Big (Richard Brake; 3 From Hell). Mr. Big’s Bingo is an Argento-esque nightmare of color where the prizes are huge (opening with a ten-thousand-dollar prize!) and the stamp has suspiciously goopy ink. Lupita watches in horror as her friends succumb to the deadly charm of gentrification of the soul; Mr. Big is one shyster who’ll always take more than he gives. Oak Springs becomes a battleground for the spirit and legacy of an entire community.

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The earmarks that I appreciated so much about Culture Shock are on full display; Gigi Saul Guerrero has a style that’s as jarring as it is unapologetic and dripping with color. There’s more wonderful juxtaposition between the reality and the fantasy as the twin themes of gentrification and cultural robbery are hammered home with brightly lit fantasy counterpointed by hyper gore and sweaty ugliness (it ain’t called Luchagore for nothin’, after all). Her style is truly signature. She’s also not above Easter-egging herself and throwing in an El Gigante poster in Caleb’s room; I truly appreciate that level of pimpery.

The casting is a serious treat, as well. Adriana Barraza is like an old Mexican Carrie Fisher with an expandable police baton and a heart of gold. Pairing her with L. Scott Caldwell provides a downright wholesome fun that’s as much comedy as it is horror; we’re talking about fan-favorite Rose from LOST, after all! The entire cast plays well off each other. It’s easy to suspend your disbelief because the characters have such believability despite the outlandish scenario.

Speaking of that menace, I’m seriously starting to worship at the altar of Richard Brake. His physical presence is leering and leaves you feeling a little violated…and that’s before you get a look at those god-awful choppers in his mouth. The various stages of dental appliance he goes through as his greedy, demonic nature shows through will put you off of your dinner. You’ve been warned. Greed-made manifest has some of the grossest teeth you’ll ever see. I think one of them was actually fizzing at one point.

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Bingo Hell has multiple stylistic nods – the gore and campiness of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn; the nauseating close-ups of Ren and Stimpy; and the garish color backdrops of Creepshow. Don’t get it twisted, though; it’s still undeniably the work of one of the most dynamic voices in horror today.

Gigi Saul Guerrero is giving you a film that makes sure you hear the message while simultaneously kicking you in the junk with powerful horror that also understands its roots.

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Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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