The Devil came down to ‘Oak Springs’ and he was looking to play some bingo in the recent Amazon Prime original, ‘Bingo Hell.’
‘Bingo Hell’ is just one of the four films produced by Blumhouse Productions and scheduled to be released this month on Amazon Prime under their ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ banner.
Blumhouse Productions first partnered up with the streaming service last year, which saw the primarily horror-based production company releasing four films under their newly developed banner: ‘The Lie,’ ‘Black Box,’ ‘Evil Eye,’ and ‘Nocturne.’
‘Bingo Hell,’ which premiered on Amazon Prime on October 01 (alongside fellow ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ film, ‘Black as Night’), follows the story of a group of senior citizens who are barely scraping by in the waning community of ‘Oak Springs.’ While others had the sense to sell off their homes and businesses at a profit to some unnamed company looking to revitalize the rundown community, these individuals chose to stay out of loyalty to their leader, Lupita (Adriana Barraza).
The group consists of Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell), Lupita’s best friend; Morris (Clayton Landey), the town handyman; Clarence (Grover Coulson), the local mechanic; Yolanda (Bertila Damas), the town’s only hairdresser; and Mario (David Jensen), the owner of the local bingo hall.
Together, they have a tradition of getting together at the local bingo hall where they offer up minimal prizes and pool what little money they have together to help one another, in this case helping Yolanda keep the doors to her struggling hair salon open.
Along with the aforementioned residents of ‘Oak Springs,’ there’s also Caleb (Joshua Caleb Johnson), the grandson of Dolores; Eric (Jonathan Medina), the reformed street hoodlum/drug addict who runs addiction support group meetings out of the bingo hall; and Raquel (Kelly Murtagh), who is unwillingly living with Dolores and who is the deadbeat mother of Caleb.
Unbeknownst to them, Mario sold the bingo hall to a Mr. Big (Richard Brake) who rolls into town in a mysterious black car. Everything about his arrival feels like the character was plucked straight out of the pages of a Stephen King novel (more on that later).
After arriving, he rechristens the hall as ‘Mr. Big’s Bingo Hall’ and offers those that play the chance to win big, with prizes ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 and with an eventual grand prize of $1,000,000.
The catch is, of course, that Mr. Big is not what he appears to be, and soon, the big winners find that the money is more of a curse than a blessing. The winners soon finding themselves plagued with hallucinations that end with them inadvertently taking their own lives. They finally get what they want most in life, but it comes at the cost of their own lives.
This wish-fulfillment at an enormous cost premise feels very akin to that of ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ or ‘Wishmaster.’
Soon, Mr. Big’s promise of the chance to have everything you could dream of, coupled with a hand stamp he uses to mark his victims, cause the once tight-knit group of friends to turn on each other. All except for Lupita, who suspects from the start that there is something not right about Mr. Big and his tainted money.
Lupita, aided by Eric, and eventually, Caleb (who has a score to settle with Mr. Big for corrupting his mother), ultimately ends up bringing the fight to Mr. Big in a showdown to save the people she cares for.
The film is also known as Welcome to the Blumhouse: Bingo
‘Bingo Hell’ is a movie that disguises itself as a horror movie, but it serves to deliver a message about the impact greed can have on people; how anyone is capable of turning on those they once perceived as their friends if it means the possibility of their own success. It also looks at how short-sighted we can be when it comes to change. The character of Lupita is so hellbent on keeping the concept of ‘Oak Springs’ alive that she doesn’t see the cost it is having on those around her.
‘Bingo Hell’ ends with the message that it’s not the things we have in life that are important; it’s the people that we share it with.
Everything about ‘Bingo Hell’ feels like you are watching a modified version of Stephen King’s novel turned movie, ‘Needful Things.’ In that movie, a mysterious stranger rolls into a small town in a mysterious black car and opens up an antique shop. In his store, he sells items that offer inhabitants of the town the chance to fulfill their deepest desires. Only, they pay a bigger price than they ever could have bargained for in the end. The showdown in that movie even ends with the antique shop being set on fire – the same fate as Mr. Big’s bingo hall in this movie.
It is the almost exact retelling of that film, combined with the supernatural elements of the character, that leave you with the sense that Mr. Big is a character derived from a Stephen King story.
Even the slow corruption of the film’s characters feels similar to a concept used in several of King’s other works. The characters of both Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining’ and Arnie in ‘Christine’ sprung to mind while watching the film.
Along with the previously mentioned references to King’s work, the hallucinations, which are meant to serve as the horror elements in this film, feel like a rip-off of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ with one victim dying after injecting themselves with a giant syringe full of drugs, similar to how Freddy Krueger killed the character of Taryn in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ by turning his fingers into syringes and impaling her with them.
On a scale of 1-5 stars, I give this movie 2.5 stars.
Despite its lack of originality, ‘Bingo Hell’ still has some redeeming moments to it. The performance delivered by Blake as the supernatural entity determined to corrupt the unsuspecting inhabitants of ‘Oak Springs’ being one of them. Also, the hallucinations, although feeling similar to other works, are major highlights of the film. They, however, occur far too infrequently in the movie.
That being said, there is not enough there to warrant a watch of this movie. In the end, there is nothing completely original about ‘Bingo Hell.’
I have come here to chew bubblegum and write horror, and I’m all out of bubblegum.