Hearing someone yell “Bingo” invokes an ominous, unexpected feeling in Gigi Guerrero’s new horror film Bingo Hell. Don’t worry too much though; grandma has a shotgun.
Bingo Hell screened at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the country. The festival specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and unusual films that don’t necessarily fit into any genre.
After the screening, I spoke with Guerrero, who wrote and directed, and her co-writer, Shane McKenzie.
The film takes place in an old community undergoing gentrification. New people and businesses are moving into the neighborhood, buying out established businesses and causing property values to rise to such an extent that people choose or are forced to leave.
That doesn’t sound like a horror movie, but then Mr. Big arrives, and Lupita has had enough. Lupita is the grandma with the shotgun. She is played by Adriana Barraza (Rambo: Last Blood, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels). Lupita loves her neighborhood and doesn’t want it to disappear. She inspires a group of senior citizens to start resisting the changes.
The local bingo hall and community center serves as the focus of their social life. Creepy, spooky Mr. Big, portrayed by Richard Brake (Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World), buys the bingo hall and gives it a flashy, casino-like look. Then bingo players, Lupita’s friends, begin to die in horrible and mysterious ways. She decides to fight.
You Can’t Watch That
Guerrero, who recently signed a first-look deal with Blumhouse, has become known throughout Latin America for her horror films. McKenzie has published novels, short stories, and comics with horror themes.
I asked how they became interested in this genre.
Guerrero explained, “For me it was because I was not allowed to watch any horror movies. I grew up in a very Mexican, very Catholic family where it was just frowned upon. So, I was being a rebel nut. That attraction to the forbidden fruit. Curiosity took over.”
McKenzie’s experience was totally different.
He said, “My parents were the opposite. They didn’t understand what horror was. So, to them it’s like ‘Oh, Shane and his spooky stories’, and I’m learning about sex and drugs way too early. But, for some reason horror just speaks to me. I’m never happier than when I’m consuming a horror.”
I suggested that maybe they had discovered a new sub-genre: “Gray and Gory.”
They laughed. Guerrero said, “I think we did.”
McKenzie added, “I’m so mad I didn’t think of that first.”
Guerrero continued, “We keep mentioning to each other that we have no other movie to compare this to. Although it was inspired by many things, we just love that it can really be its own thing.”
I mentioned that I was confused by Mr. Big. Was he supernatural or just part of the gentrification? Was your intent to make him mysterious?
Guerrero explained, “That was our intention. We wanted him to be more of a metaphor [for] many things. What attracted me so much to this character is that he is a representation of the darkest side of ourselves. These themes of greed, gentrification, breaking communities apart – anybody can relate to something like that. Mr. Big manipulates this community into being greedy, into thinking money’s going to solve all their problems. I think we can all fall into the trap of thinking money is the solution. I also wanted Mr. Big to be that representation of how dark we can be, and how hard we can be on ourselves. That’s why he gets grosser and grosser and nastier-looking the stronger he gets.”
McKenzie created the character. He said, “I totally agree and even more specifically, he is a metaphor for Lupita’s fears. Everything she’s been trying to keep out of this neighborhood. He takes the bingo hall that was their community center and turns it into a spiderweb, luring all of her family and bringing out the greed in them, when she’s been trying to show them that they don’t need any of that. He reaches in and pulls all their darkness to the surface, which is what she’s been trying to protect them from. So, it was less about who is this man or what is this monster, where did it come from, as it is a motivation for Lupita.”
The Actors and COVID
I shared that the Mr. Big character reminded me of the Joker from Batman.
McKenzie said, “Yes, I think Richard Brake’s mouth is going to win all the awards.”
Guerrero said, “We were so excited that an actor like Richard Brake just looks amazing, so we took advantage of his looks. That smile! We did not want to change anything.”
I asked whether filming during COVID posed challenges.
McKenzie recalled, “Yes, COVID was a huge challenge. Looking back, I think a lot of those challenges made the movie better. We had to scale things down and zoom in more. That neighborhood before was going to be full and we were going to see gentrification arrive and watch what that does. What COVID made us do was realize we can’t have all those people. So, what if everyone already left and it’s just the last ones standing? And that’s way better.”
Guerrero observed, “The filming was really intense. Short days. Not enough days. Can’t get close to the actors. I think this is the first time of all the things I’ve shot that I don’t know 80% of the crew’s names because I don’t know what they look like behind the masks. That’s always hard to not have that intimacy.”
I asked about future projects.
Guerrero smiled. “Our goal and our dream will always be a feature version of El Gigante, which is our most famous short film, but we also have a lot of other ideas.”
You can watch Bingo Hell on Prime Video and check out the preview below.