“Welcome to the Blumhouse” returns to Prime Video this week for its second year. This film series consists of four anthological horror-thrillers. October 1st brought us the first two, “Black as Night” and “Bingo Hell”. A couple genre flicks that each had their ups and downs, but in the end did deliver some early Halloween season screams.
Maritte Lee Go’s “Black as Night” is a teenage horror romp that sees a young girl named Shawna (Asjha Cooper) come into her own as she and her friends battle vampires in New Orleans. This movie delivers plenty of action, vampire killing, charisma, and youthful charm. It does have its flaws. This one works in spots of social commentary to fuel its plot-line which does feel a tad self-serious when compared to the more consistently lighthearted tone wrapped around these moments.
The movie is certainly fun when Shawna and her friends are setting out to protect their neighborhood from vampires. One of the killings hits close to home for our lead character and while it’s a bit routine in terms of story-telling. It’s still more than enough to fuel the character motivation, and the importance of their mission. It feels like a mash-up of “The Monster Squad” with “Stand by Me” in terms of a group of teens fighting monsters while the leader comes of age and it had me engaged.
The acting admittedly is hit-and-miss. None of the performances jump out as terrible by any means. But the dialogue lacked authenticity in places. At times it felt a little unnatural, and when mixed with serviceable performances, none of the characters pop. And some of the interactions between them miss emotional cues just a tad. However, Asjha Cooper was a charming lead and she brought plenty of effort. Her narration was amusing, and it was able to capture the charisma of youthful decision making, something that was able to give the movie overall a subtle, but effective comedic layering.
Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “Bingo Hell” is set in the Barrio of Oak Springs and follows a group of elderly friends led by the strong-minded Lupita (Adriana Barraza) who will defend her town when a sinister man buys their town bingo hall. Resulting in an adventure filled with violence and mayhem, unity, and grim humor. It’s creatively eccentric which is something I can always appreciate, but this one missed the mark for me, despite some layers of fun.
This one took a little too long to get going. It’s wildly off-the-wall once the horror elements kick in, but the spotty performances, and thin plot-progression were a hindrance. I enjoyed Barraza in the lead. There was a human quality to her relentless pursuit of keeping the neighborhood together that was naturally endearing. Despite how annoying it could potentially be in real-life. I also thought Richard Brake as Mr. Big was nicely cast as this evil business owner. His physical acting was great for the role, and he landed a few frightening sequences that I enjoyed. Both Barazza and Brake brought a ton of energy to their characters that I do think elevated the writing they had to work with.
Overall, it all just felt a bit too silly to me, and despite the gore and violence, it didn’t hit with the intended impact. I think blending humor and horror together is extremely difficult to pull off and here, the forced levity, and over-the-top attempts at horror, each undercut the other. Later in the run-time it tries to bring the tone down to a level of seriousness that can deliver its intended message of gentrification in the neighborhood, which sort of goes in one ear and out the other. Primarily due to not feeling a connection to the characters, or an investment in the plot-line of a sadistic bingo hall and its demented owner. However, if you like wacky B-horror movies that you can turn your brain off to, then there is some fun to be found here for some Halloween themed viewing.
Anthony J Digioia II - The SilverScreen Analysis © All Rights Reserved.