Director/Screenplay – Chris Baugh, Story – Chris Baugh & Yvonne Mullin, Producers – Yvonne Donohoe & Brendan Mullin, Photography – Ryan Kernaghan, Music – Steve Lynch, Visual Effects – Egg Post Production (Supervisor – Dan Cullen), Special Effects – Bowsie Workshop (Supervisors – Aoife Noonan & Ben O’Connor), Makeup Effects – Millennium FX (Designer – Neill Gorton), Production Design – John Leslie. Production Company – Endeavour Content/Fis Eirann (Screen Ireland)/Northern Ireland Screen/Automatik/Egg Studios/inevitable Pictures/Bl!nder F!lms/Six Mile Hills Productions.
Jack Rowan (Eugene Moffat), Nigel O’Neill (Francie Moffat), Louisa Harland (Claire McGann), John Lynch (George Bough), Michael Hough (SP McCauley), Fra Fee (William Bough), Morgan C. Jones (Charlie Harte), Andrea Irvine (Pauline Bogue), David Pearse (Cathal), Robert Nairne (Abhartach), Marty Maguire (Gabriel)
In Six Mile Hill in rural Ireland, there is the legend of the vampire Abhartach, which supposedly inspired Bram Stoker in the creation of Dracula. Abhartach’s remains are purported to lie buried beneath a mound in the middle of a field. Eugene Moffat’s father Francie runs a construction firm and Eugene is given the job of clearing the field and demolishing the mound to make way for an upcoming bypass. Eugene and his best friend William Bough are returning home through the field after a night’s drinking when they are attacked by a wild animal and William gored to death against the mound. In the aftermath, Eugene gets to work on clearing the field but finds that when they demolish the mound, it is restored by morning. The security guard Charlie then attacks them and it requires great effort to stop him. They realise that in disturbing the mound they have awoken the vampire.
In the 2020s, the Vampire Film feels like it has seen better days. The genre resembles the vampire who has just awakened and is in need of a good infusion of blood – or perhaps even more so that it has retreated to its coffin for a few decades and left everything down to a few acolytes and baby vampires. Put it all down to Twilight (2008) and the way it reduced the genre so something anaemic, along with Hotel Transylvania (2012) and sequels that turned the vampire into a caricatured parody of itself.
Despite this, here have been some strong and intelligent attempts to revisit the genre in this time – see the likes of Stake Land (2010), We Are the Night (2010), The Transfiguration (2016), My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To (2020) and Midnight Mass (2021). Other efforts go for more comedic directions as with the likes of Bloodsucking Bastards (2015), Eat Locals (2017), The Night Watchmen (2017) and Hawk & Rex: Vampire Slayers (2020). Others such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), Bloodrunners (2017), Vampire vs the Bronx (2020) and Black As Night (2021) get their effect out of transplanting the basics into a new environment.
In the case of Boys from County Hell, the new environment is rural Northern Ireland. The film gets off a spirited opening with a visit to a pub called The Stoker immediately followed by Jack Rowan and Fra Fee taking two tourists off for a tour of the local burial mound amid reminders that Bram Stoker was Irish and claims that he found all his inspiration for the writing of Dracula (1897) from the local legend of the Abhartach. The same year also saw another Irish vampire film with Let the Wrong One In (2021), although has an urban Dublin setting and was played as a comedy.
From there, the film goes through a series of highly entertaining dogleg convolutions as the vampire is brought back to life and proceeds to drain the townspeople of their blood. The film is not so much a Horror Comedy as it is about ordinary, everyday characters and the ways they deal with and try to understand a situation that has the frequent habit of going bizarrely out of control. All of the characters are wryly likeable with Michael Hough in particular having a death scene that is ends up tragically endearing in its very ordinariness. The major drawback of the film is trying to decipher what is being said by actors who frequently display accents so thick and incomprehensible that you need subtitles.
The single most entertaining scene in the film is the one where the group have to deal with Morgan C. Jones as the freshly vampirised security guard Charlie who keeps coming back from the dead after they have killed him, including clambering his way up a pole impaling him into a grave and then clawing his way up through soil after being freshly buried.
The film certainly offers some odd takes on vampirism – the vampires here are not affected by daylight or stakes through the heart and about the only way to get rid of them seems to be to bury them alive; that being injured on the burial mound itself is capable of turning one into a vampire; and the very strange image of seeing blood draining out of people’s facial orifices as they sleep and being drawn through the streets and gutters to the vampire (although one cannot help but think that any blood that goes down a drain or through streets and fields is going to end extremely diluted and/or polluted by the time it gets all the way through the town to the vampire’s mouth).
Boys from County Hell was the second film for Irish director/writer Chris Baugh who had previously made the rural revenge film Bad Day for the Cut (2017).