If you’re Hispanic and live in South Texas, there’s a good chance you’ve accompanied your abuelita to a bingo hall. Grannies love playing the game of chance and getting their hair done. Director Gigi Saul Guerrero covers both in “Bingo Hell” which is part of the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” anthology series for Amazon Prime Video. Adriana Barraza, who received an Oscar nomination for “Amores perros” by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, delivers a feisty performance as the barrio’s senior guardian who takes on evil forces threatening her bingo night.

Wonderful character actor David Jensen has a cameo as Mario the bingo hall owner who sells out for big bucks, courtesy of Mr. Big (Richard Brake) a mysterious figure with a wicked grin who resembles a cross between Reverend Kane in “Poltergeist 2” and The Tall Man from “Phantasm.” He turns the little church hall into a flashy casino-like bingo palace complete with flashy lights, tv monitors, and large payouts.

Lupita (Barraza) sees the new business, Mr. Big’s Bingo, as just another form of gentrification as most of the low-income residents of Oak Springs have moved off, selling out to the white man. It’s not such a bad idea as the barrio has become a desolate place with only a hair salon run by Yolanda (Bertila Damas) left to take care of the few “viejas” including Lupita’s best friend Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell). Sure, there’s no crime or drugs in the neighborhood, Lupita and her friends ran off the dealers a long time ago, so she’s convinced the remaining seniors to stay put instead of selling out for big money not realizing that “family” can exist anywhere not just in the barrio.

Greed drives the horror film but by the time the credits roll the six remaining Deadly Sins have managed to permeate the story written by Guerrero, Shane McKenzie, and Perry Blackshear. As Mr. Big begins to lure in the locals, gruesome deaths start taking place causing Lupita to jump into action to take on the evil force seizing the hood.

As a big fan of practical effects over CGI, “Bingo Hell” features a few gruesome scenes to satiate fans of gore. Brake does a terrific job of playing the film’s menacing villain who meets his match in shotgun-toting Lupita, the barrio matriarch has no problem shoving latte-drinking hipsters out of the way while dropping f-bombs.

Beautifully shot, the cinematography by Byron Werner is at times visually striking, with an enjoyable performance by Adriana Barraza leading the solid cast that also includes a very good Joshua Caleb Johnson as Lupita’s grandson Caleb.

Guerrero has become “la reina del horror” in the Latinx community as “Bingo Hell” marks the second collaboration with Blumhouse, the first being “Culture Shock” for the “In the Dark” anthology series. She also directed an episode of “The Purge” television show and contributed a segment titled “M is for Matador” to the 2016 horror anthology “ABCs of Death 2.5.”

“Bingo Hell” debuts October 1st on Amazon Prime alongside “Black as Night” as part of the second season of “Welcome to the Blumhouse” produced by Jason Blum and Amazon Studios.

Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the US, specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world, and supporting new filmmakers. To find out more go to https://fantasticfest.com/

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Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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