Bingo Hell is the latest release from the constantly improving Gigi Saul Guerrero. The movie is about a woman named Lupita (Adriana Barraza) who fiercely protects her neighborhood from gentrification. When Mr. Big (Richard Brake) comes into Oak Springs with his big paying bingo hall, she realizes there may be a connection to the sudden disappearances in town.
The movie will immediately give some people a sense of home. As someone who was raised and has spent the majority of their life in El Paso, Texas, Bingo Hell was instantly familiar to me. The characters and setting will provide a comforting sense to anyone who has grown up in a similar setting. Even those who were not raised in the same circumstances will relate to the sense of community, family, and/or togetherness. Unlike most horror, the film has a comforting and welcoming feel.
This makes the scares especially effective. It is clear something is wrong once a mysterious limousine makes its first appearance. But, by then the audience will have already been pulled in. When the more intense scares come, they are very impactful. It is a great dichotomy Bingo Hell has going the entire time. Oak Springs has an inviting feel, but there is an air of suspense the whole time.
The best stories involving a battle between good and evil have a strong protagonist and antagonist. Lupita will immediately appeal to the audience. Much like the neighborhood she loves, there is a quality about her that will make you want to open up to her. At the same time she is, as one character puts it, “that mean old Mexican lady.” She has some of the best moments of Bingo Hell and they show off both sides of her personality.
Mr. Big is one of the best villains to come along in a while. A combination of Stephen King’s Randall Flagg and G.M. Dark from Something Wicked This Way Comes, he is a frightening figure. The physical manifestation of greed, his mannerisms are terrifying. As Bingo Hell progresses, he becomes more monstrous in appearance and is a classic horror movie villain. He is the monster under the bed that parents warn their children about.
Along with being great at using grindhouse horror, Guerrero has also never shied away from injecting commentary into her work. Visually, Bingo Hell presents different types of heroes. The group who fight back are older and may not be able to do the things they once could, but they still make it a point to defend their homes. Normally they would be the ones who are helplessly murdered or who no one listens to. Seeing them play main roles is a refreshing change of pace.
There is also the idea of gentrification. Early on, Bingo Hell takes the normal potshots at hipsters and coffee shops. The film is not just content to rely on recycled jokes, however. The film takes things to the next level and asks questions. Is it wrong to take an immediate cash buyout for immediate comfort? Either way, what are the long term ramifications on future generations? Overall, the movie is scary fun that has an important message.
Fantastic Fest takes place from September 23 – September 30. Check out AIPT’s ongoing coverage.
Bingo Hell comes to Prime Video October 1
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!