Bingo Hell (2021)

Director: Gigi Saul Guerrero

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Starring: Adriana Barraza, L. Scott Cauldwell, Richard Brake, Joshua Caleb Johnson, Clayton Landey

My review of Bingo Hell was first published at Bloody Good Screen.

After releasing four films in 2020, Welcome To The Blumhouse has returned for a second year. The opening film unfolds in Oak Springs, a decaying neighbourhood littered with “For Sale” and “Going Out of Business” signs. While the community fights against gentrification, their beloved bingo hall is sold to an evil force. 

Central to this story are these loving neighbours, and the bonds are certainly felt within this community. As they spend time looking after one another, enjoying chatting and playing bingo, it’s easy to buy into their connections. While their neighbourhood falls apart, the characters feel time passing them by and refuse to take it lying down. Adriana Barraza puts a spirited performance into Lupita, the leader who’s protective of the neighbourhood after devoting so much to cleaning it up. Her best friend, Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell) is coping with a grandson acting out, a result of his mother’s dissatisfaction with life. 

Intruding on this community is the enigmatic Mr Big (Richard Brake), played as a Vegas showman hosting the National Lottery draw with a creepy smile. Sinister ideas are in play as he ensnares residents, which makes it unfortunate how unsightly these scenes are. Between the constant close-ups, excessive colour grading, and tilted angles, director Gigi Saúl Guerrero’s attempts to capture the horror don’t work. There’s a distinct lack of scares and thrills, sadly replaced by boredom which extends to much of the runtime. 

Written by Guerrero, Shane McKenzie, and Perry Blackshear, the screenplay resembles a lesser episode of an anthology series. Between the set-up and the envisioned ending, there’s a notable lack of ideas in the middle which leaves the story to drag its feet with haphazard filler. What’s left is a heavy-handed tale about how money’s the root of all evil, yet some cash towards another draft of the screenplay would’ve been appreciated.