Wrong Turn, Saw, and High Tension. What do these movies have in common? Splatter Horror. These are the type of films where the lead(s) are hunted or tortured by a hulking unstoppable over 6’ tall antagonist in a brutal fashion. Horror fans have come to enjoy this genre in their own way but a few movies have taken the “final girl” or “final guy” trope and flipped it on its head. That’s where writer Robert Benjamin’s Bloody Hell delivers with style.
The film stars Ben O’Toole as a man who finds himself on the end of a meat hook in a dank and dark basement in Finland. What happens throughout Bloody Hell is a fun ride with horror, great comedic timing, and one hell of a bank robbery scene that would make Johnny Utah blush.
I was able to speak with Benjamin and O’Toole about the movie, what it took to prep for the action set pieces, and bonded over the hellscape that his dieting.
So, Robert what’s the origin story, or where did the idea of Bloody Hell come from?
Robert Benjamin: Yeah, so I was actually traveling. I was at the airport waiting for my flight and there was an odd family of Eastern Europeans or something not too far from me. They were looking at me and whispering in their language. They were probably saying really nice things, but me being paranoid and crazy, I was like, “Oh, they’re going to kidnap me. That’s what they’re going to do. I can feel it. I can feel that in their looks.” So, I just started thinking about what I would do if I woke up in a dark basement. So I bought a pad and I get to popping and I just started jotting down everything. And I pretty much wrote the outline for the film while I was waiting for my flight.
This is your first feature in the horror genre. Are you going to stay in horror or are you going to explore other types of genres?
Robert Benjamin: Yeah, I mean, kind of both. I’ve been a horror fan my entire life. My mom banned me from horror movies when I was 13 because I was watching too many of them and I’ve always loved the genre. I don’t know what it is about. It’s just the scare of the fun, the excitement. I’m actually working on something next that’s not quite horror. It’s more like a trauma thriller but as opposed to going slapstick comedy. I don’t think that’s in the cards yet and maybe in the future, but I do like the dark drama, horror thriller, type genre.
Ben, I checked out your IMDb and you have an eclectic line of performances. What attracted you to the role in Bloody Hell?
Ben O’Toole: It was very original. It was very unique as a story. I remember after first reading it, I thought, “This conscience and Rex thing, this kind of dichotomous relationship; will I be playing both of those parts?” I was told, “Yes. If the guys are interested in you then, yeah. If it goes your way, then yes. You’ll be doing this.” And I was like, “That is a very interesting and very unique challenge as well to perform scenes with yourself and with another version.” The challenge itself is what I found really exciting. I like to push myself and it’s not always that you get an opportunity like this. I sort of jump at that and when it’s an old story told in a new way, if there’s a fresh lick of paint on this—it’s really unique.
Since you said it was a challenge, because of the dichotomous relationship within your character’s mind, was it difficult to get into that mode or did you just fall into it?
Ben O’Toole: No. I had the script maybe a couple of months before we even entered into preproduction and by way of preparation, I went to work pretty much straight away after I knew I had the role. Those two characters kind of in my head went through many, many, many iterations. Where we landed on, I was actually really quite happy with and what felt most confident with moving forward, because he’s the same character. Just with a different attitude on this situation. It’s not like a Shyamalan’s Split, where the conscience is a six-year-old little girl or something like that or an English nanny.
It’s still Rex, it’s just Rex with a different opinion on the matter. But when I say a “challenge” too, I mean—mostly just the time that it was going to take. I imagined that challenge was felt by everybody. Every shot we would do, we’d spend half the day shooting one character and then turn around and do the exact same scene with different makeup on. Different physical state, et cetera, et cetera. So, the workload itself was monumental. I was playing two leads in the film. We all want to work in that capacity and see if we can do it, you know? Uh, yeah. It was very rewarding. I will say that.
This is the first time I’ve actually seen you perform in anything. And I was feeling it very much. Robert, was Bloody Hell always going to be set in Finland?
Robert Benjamin: It’s not a great answer but Finland kind of came because of my assumption of where they could possibly be from. But mainly because I wanted that airline ticket to say something cool like Helsinki, because originally I wrote LAX to HEL. I’m like, “Oh, that’s really cool but LAX is kind of weak. What other state codes are there?” And I saw Boise [Idaho] and like, “Oh boy, the hell. That works.” It’s really just based on the airplane codes that I chose Boise and Helsinki.
Ben O’Toole: Yeah, inspiration comes from anyway, man.
I got a sense that the movie is a mixture of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes but in Finland.
Robert Benjamin: Absolutely that. For sure.
The appearance of Ben O’Toole’s character comes off as a guy that can handle himself in a combative situation. The actor went over the importance of having the right physicality of Rex and we also saw eye to eye on how committing to a diet plan is no joke.
Ben, you’re pretty jacked in this movie and there’s a lot of physical work as well. Was there a lot of training to prep for this role?
Ben O’Toole: Just before we really sort of started preparing for this, I was in Vietnam eating everything. I’m telling you, I did not look like that three months before cameras started rolling. So, I contacted a guy, Mike Simone is his name. He works at the Human Fit project—that’s his baby. I reached out to him after having conversations with Alistair [Grierson], our director, and he said, “Look, this guy needs to look–” and it was universally accepted that Rex needed to look really capable. Cause he spends the majority of the film without his shirt on.
Basically, what I wanted for the character’s physique was it’s like—you really wanted to believe that if this guy did get down, he might actually stand a chance of getting out of here. Not just getting out of here but if he did turn around and decide to kind of enact revenge, could he get away with it? I wanted him to look capable of that. Not just of what I literally had to do on set, but also just—it’s like when you see the Abomination go up against the Hulk. It’s going to be pretty epic.
Yeah, you want to make it completely believable. You see somebody who’s maybe 150 pounds and look like they can barely lift a shotgun. You’re gonna think, “Naw, that’s not happening.”
Ben O’Toole: Yeah, exactly. They turn around and they do all this stuff and—I hate it sometimes too, where they get these great stunt guys in the suit and then somebody pulls a mask off and you’re like, “No, fuck off. Come on. That guy?! No, not real.” Alistair’s word was, he wanted him to look like jailbird physique, like hard. So we kind of went to town on that. It wasn’t so much about building muscle. It was more about just having a real scenery really lean look. I mean, and that did take a couple of months and the diet was just—I’m telling you. If you want to look like that, make sure you’re getting paid to look like that because that lifestyle sucks.
Robert and I shared a collective laugh at Ben’s statement.
Ben O’Toole: It’s awful. God. Say goodbye to any kind of life.
Yeah, I’m on a keto diet trying to lose weight and I’m already hating it.
Ben O’Toole: I know. You think you’re going to love it because you’re like, “Oh, fats and proteins, fuck yeah. Bacon? Bring it on.” It’s more complicated and you get sick of bacon.
HERE’S WHERE WE HOP INTO BLOODY HELL SPOILER TERRITORY
Rex loses his leg fairly quickly. Was it always going to play out that way or did you plan on taking something different early on in Bloody Hell?
Robert Benjamin: Yeah, that was one of the first things I thought about because I thought that would be a very, very shocking, cool way to let the audience know that they’re going to see something different. As opposed to losing the leg at the end of the movie or just waiting for that reveal. That was the plan to make audiences go, “Whoa, okay. This is something completely different.” Because if I had waited that says, “Kind of typical and what do I fill that space with?” But if I do it so early on, then you don’t know what’s going to follow. And that was how I wrote it as well. It’s like, “I don’t know how I’m going to take that, but let’s find out.” So that was kind of the plan.
Yeah. I got a bit worried when the guy was cutting the other leg off. I started to think that Rex might have to crawl and fight his way out.
Robert Benjamin: Well, yeah, that’s actually cool what he does with that the second leg. I was debating whether or not to that to the first leg or to the second leg, because if I blew my wad on the first so soon, what am I going to save for later? I’m like, “Oh, the second leg. How about that?” And that’s how it worked out.
It just writes itself.
Robert Benjamin: Yeah.
The following part of this interview gave me hope of a franchise being built around Rex and the world that Robert Benjamin had built within Bloody Hell.
I honestly felt like you can like build a franchise of the Rex character. He starts with some complexities pretty quickly—in Bloody Hell—like an antihero such as Snake Plissken. Has the idea of a franchise starring Rex ever pop up in your mind or that we could see a “Rex will return in…”?
Robert Benjamin: Yeah. I mean actually, Ben and I have talked about this before production even started because it does leave openings for more stories. I think there’s a lot we can do with it. I know exactly where I want them to go or the franchise to go or the characters to go. We’d have to see if there’s a demand for it. And if people want it, I’m ready. I think Ben is ready too.
Ben O’Toole: Yeah, man. Let’s do it again.
You might have to go on that serious diet again, Ben.
Robert Benjamin: I’ll make sure you keep your shirt on.
Ben O’Toole: More shirts in the next one, please.
Robert Benjamin: More shirts, no ropes, a bag, and a prosthetic leg.
Ben O’Toole: And a prosthetic leg so I can walk, please.
Yeah, he turned golf club into a prosthetic leg. I’m sure you can put a shotgun on Rex next time. Just go crazy on it.
Robert Benjamin: Don’t give me any ideas.
Ben O’Toole: (Laughing) That’s the Planet Terror.
So, my last question is for both of you guys. Do you think Alia (Meg Fraser) and Rex work out in the end? Cause she seems to be getting into the same dual personality mindset as Rex.
Robert Benjamin: Yeah, I mean, that’s a question to be answered. I have somewhat of an answer, but kind of like the first one I’m going to write and see where it goes. I know where I think it could go, but it could easily go one or two completely different ways. So we’ll find out. I’ll find out when you find that.
Ben O’Toole: Interesting. The feeling I get is its sort of such a spontaneous decision to bring her with Rex. There are going to be some learning difficulties back in America, I think.
Bloody Hell is available at your local drive-in or VOD right now. Check it out. It’ll be worth your time.