Unless you have a fear of cardigans, the classic idea of bingo isn’t likely to fill you with dread. However, the 2021 movie Bingo Hell uses a bingo hall as a central plot element, creating a movie that’s may certainly be unusual. It’s no more so than the rest of the Welcome to the Blumhouse film series, which numbers eight separate releases.

Gentrification

Welcome to the Blumhouse, a project that’s designed to furnish the Amazon Prime Originals brand with new content. It is a horror anthology that tackles topics that make for impolite dinnertime conversation, the likes of dark and gloomy characters, scary visions, and supernatural forces. The series switches cast members with every release, yet the overall tone of Guardian-friendly topics (Black as Night, the companion to Bingo Hell is about gentrification, while the latter is about materialism) remains as an overarching trope.

Bingo Hell, the fifth installment of Welcome to the Blumhouse, uses bingo as the archetype of something that refuses modernization, a trait the building in the film shares with the elderly character of Lupita. It’s a bit of a dated stereotype today, though, not least because many of the bricks-and-mortar bingo halls have been supplanted by more sophisticated online operations. One example of a brand that does maintain both of these experiences though, is Buzz Bingo, which hosts online and land-based operations throughout the UK.

As mentioned, Welcome to the Blumhouse singles out very modern fears as the nemeses of its characters. Gentrification might sound like an odd thing to worry about until you realize that it’s about the deletion of culture and eviction of existing societies. The popular 2017 horror Get Out strikes a similar chord with its depiction of controlling middle-class people and the communities of color that are viewed more as interlopers than residents. Call it a subversion of the traditional slasher movie. 

American Materialism

Ironically, for all the stereotypes of an unchanging thing, the bingo hall does eventually change in Bingo Hell, albeit for the worse. It becomes a place where people exclusively chase material wealth – a casino – rather than the locus of the town’s community. Director Gigi Saul Guerrero tells many of the more ghastly aspects of the plot via hallucinations and bizarre happenstance, such as a scene in which the character Mario eats a plate of bingo balls. It’s a surreal but not especially satisfying castigation of American materialism, and the critical response to date bears that fact out. 

At the beginning of October, Welcome to the Blumhouse capped off its 2021 efforts with the double feature Madres/The Manor. These two films deal with a seemingly cursed pregnancy and an equally cursed nursing home, respectively. Unfortunately, reviews have been middling across the board for this innovative saga, with 2020’s Black Box reaching a series-high 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. The anthology-style of storytelling remains a popular medium though, with Black Mirror and Love, Death & Robots earning praise on Netflix.

Movie fans should expect more from Welcome to the Blumhouse’s myriad directors and writers in the near future.

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