Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: BINGO HELL

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

It is hard not to have the film title, Bingo Hell, jump out among the many films offered during the festival. Everyone may not be intrigued, but it will most definitely catch the attention for any of us who have or had ties to the Bingo world, whether personally or within the family. The game has been around for decades, and for us in the United States it goes back to the time of our parents and/or grandparents. The game of chance is a staple of entertainment for many to this day and some in many communities take it very seriously. For those trying to modernize/develop a town and dispose of what is viewed as old or not important, try to displace the area that the community members value and see what can happen. Bingo Hall is directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero (Into the Dark: Culture Shock), who co-wrote the screenplay with Shane McKenzie (La Quinceañera) and Perry Blackshear (The Siren). The great script introduces the audience to Lupita (Adriana Barraza, Amores Perros, Babel), who is tired of how the community of Oak Springs is changing all around her. She is a feisty senior citizen who has plenty of energy left in her to continue to be a neighborhood activist for not only herself, but for the established residents and friends who live in Oak Springs together. Gentrification continues and in an opening scene, a long-term business owner is happy over the sale of his property and seems to have done so without a concern for the tight-knit neighbors that go to his establishment. We also find that this individual’s glee soon comes to an end and it’s not pretty at all. The body count begins.

The Bingo Hell script has strongly developed characters and excellent performances by the actors of varied ages, from the senior citizens down to the next couple of generations. Adriana Barraza’s performance as a very strong elder is spot on as she goes about tackling the issues and investigating the most recent change regarding the beloved bingo hall, the out of sight former owner and the sinister looking new owner, Mr. Big (Richard Brake, 3 From Hell). He also excels in his character, quite over-the-top, almost as if he is a carnival caller to step right up to the flashy set-up in the revamped Bingo Hall. L. Scott Caldwell (“Lost”) is easily another favorite character as Dolores, Lupita’s best friend, especially when she thinks her friend is going crazy, ready to take matters to an up and over level.

It absolutely works overall, starting with the opening scene of evil lurking, to the female buddy comedy between Dolores and Lupita, as well as the strength and determination of each character in the community fighting for what is important to them. It is hard to watch some of the death scenes when the characters are happy over their luck, then don’t get to really enjoy it. Heavens if anything else bad happens to the beloved abuelas (grandmothers) as the story is coming to a face off. Great work by the actors for the strong script written and Guerrero at the helm which makes this film entertaining for horror/comedy fans.

As great as I find this film, it does come with a warning that there are some strong scenes of violence and horror that will not appeal to all viewers. Yes, it does have an abuelita in the story to love, but although she is strong, there is horror she faces in the fight against gentrification and evil. If you can handle the blood and guts scenes, then I recommend viewing this film with heart as we enter October and all the nightmarish things to come for this month of scares. 

Bingo Hell also stars Joshua Caleb Johnson (The Good Lord Bird), Bertila Damas, Clayton Landey, David Jensen, Grover Coulson, Kelly Murtagh, and Jonathan Medina, among others.

Bingo Hell is one of the latest installments of Welcome to the Blumhouse, available exclusively on Prime Video on October 1st.

Source: Prime Video

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