Today is my birthday. I’m thirty-seven today, and am on the downward slide towards forty.
But even on my birthday, I must deliver the goods. Since it’s Monday, that means a movie review, and this flick is really quite fun.
The film is Boys from County Hell (2020), a comedic vampire movie that takes place in rural Ireland. My family and I had the opportunity to visit Ireland in 2006, and the film’s setting really reminded me of that trip.
The premise is straightforward: in the small, dying town of Six Mile Hill, there is a stone cairn in the middle of a farmer’s field. The cairn is said to be the grave of Abhartach, an ancient Irish vampire who is said to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The cairn—indeed, the entire town—is threatened by a proposed new bypass. The bypass will route so much traffic away from the town, it will kill the struggling local economy. Naturally, the construction will also move directly through the cairn.
You can probably see where this is going.
What makes this film so enjoyable is not just the Irish setting, which I enjoyed, or the interesting take on the vampire mythos. Rather, the protagonist and supporting characters really give life to the film. The protagonist is Eugene Moffat (Jack Rowan), a bit of a loser who is adrift in life, but fiercely loyal to his town and friends. He hates that his town is dying, and that his best friend is moving to Australia in search of better prospects. The two enjoy one last bender together before wandering back to Eugene’s farmhouse. On the way, they pass by the cairn, where Eugene’s friend cuts himself on one of the stones… before being gored to death by a wild boar!
Eugene witnesses his friend’s blood seeping—almost pulled—into the ground. Naturally, old Abhartach is drinking up after centuries of hungry burial.
Meanwhile, Eugene’s disapproving father has accepted the contract to build the bypass, which will destroy Six Mile Hill. The townspeople are devastated and angered at the news, and Eugene, his father, and their tiny work crew (funnyman SP and tomboy Claire) find themselves ostracized from the other town folk. After disassembling the cairn, the crew finds it rebuilt the following day.
Ultimately, while working one evening, Abhartach rises up and attacks the crew. This sets into motion the action of the film, as the quartet tries—unsuccessfully—to combat the vampire with various methods gleaned from popular culture: sunlight, garlic, Holy Water, and the like. One anonymous worker is bitten, and the crew humorously tries various methods to dispatch with him, even impaling him on a metal pole. Finally, Claire dumps a bunch of rocks and soil on him, burying the vampiric construction worker so he can’t climb up and get them.
The team finally realizes that the only way to defeat Abhartach is to bury him again, which is a difficult task, or to behead him. Eugene’s friend from earlier in the film is also now a vampire, and the distrust between the Moffats and the townspeople comes to a bowl amid the crisis of a vampire on the loose.
All in all, this film was quite well done. The economically depressed, rural Irish setting was compelling, and made for a unique setting for this story. The character arc of Eugene—a do-nothing slacker with zero ambition—shows his growth into a responsible, heroic figure. It’s just a very well-written, well-paced, fun spin on the vampire mythos.
Happy New Year—and Happy Birthday to me!