In a fusion of pint-sipping and vampire-slaying, director Chris Baugh sinks his teeth into some Dracula folk-lore whilst adding a parodic twist in his latest comedy horror The Boys from County Hell. This offbeat film follows a band of Irish locals, including father and son duo Eugene and Francis Moffat (Jack Rowan and Nigel O’Neill), alongside Claire McCann (Louisa Harland from Derry Girls). Together, they tackle the Abhartach, an ancient vampire who supposedly inspired Bram Stoker to write his novel Dracula.
The story revolves around the burial site of this folkloric vampire, a cairn of piled stones that are said to keep the monster trapped in the earth. After making the audience aware that Abhartach’s cairn is the only thing that attracts tourists to this out-of-the-way village, it comes to light that there are construction plans to tear it down and make way for a bypass. As Francis’ father pushes him to take the lead on the project despite disapproval from the locals, it’s all too easy to predict how this narrative might pan out. However, much like this cairn-turned-construction-site, the film also attempts to demolish the hackneyed vampire tropes that so often come with the genre. For one thing, this is a not a vampire that sucks the necks of gullible villagers, but rather one that draws blood from his victims like a magnet, leaving them completely drained as blood pours from their eyes, ears and noses.
This desire to tear down bloodsucking clichés becomes even more explicit when the gang starts tackling the actual vampires. As the reluctant heroes amusingly try to tick off every strategy in the vampire-killing handbook, they soon find that these time-worn tips won’t work on this modern take on the legend. This is even summed up when they throw Stoker’s novel on the table and declare that the fiction of its pages is no match for the vampires of their reality. Stake (construction pole) through the heart? Don’t be a fool. Sunlight? You won’t find any shimmering Edward Cullen here. Decapitation? Close, but not quite.
Swap out some zombies for Charlie, a drunken security guard turned into a slightly sluggish vampire, and what you’re left with is a Shaun of the Dead-style showdown mixed with some good old splatstick. So, as the team of hapless vampire hunters frantically stumble around to some Rockabilly tunes whilst trying to beat the seemingly undefeatable undead, we’re invited to joke along with them (though mostly at them).
These general comic tones are heightened further by the combination of dry Irish dialogue and the over-climactic score from Steve Lynch. Creative cursing and cheap remarks are met with extravagant symphonies and screeching violins just seconds later. Nigel O’Neill arguably does the best job with his short and blunt stabs at the script, gruffly shrugging off father-son hugs and heartfelt moments along the way. While resisting being tied to the tropes, he brings the film back down to earth, and in turn rescues it from entering into all too familiar territory.
If you’re looking for a short and sweet comedy-horror blend, Boys from County Hell may just be it. With its protagonists downing pints at death’s door and quarrelling over whether they’re dealing with crackheads or vampires, the film will definitely keep you hooked with its humorous punches. On the other hand, it may not be at the bleeding edge in terms of its horror elements. Either way, the film does a fine enough job of subverting the vampire genre with a satirical spin that makes it all in all a genuinely entertaining watch.