Horror and humor have often formed an uneasy alliance, taking many forms from subdued stomach-churning satire to outrageous gross-out comedy. With Holy Hell, writer/director/star Ryan LePlante delivers a specimen of the latter. LaPlante takes on the role of Father Augustus Bane, a mild-mannered priest in a bad neighborhood who does his best to live his life by the ten commandments. However, after Father Augustus and a family of faithful parishioners are targeted for brutalization by the flamboyant and murderous MacFarlane clan, the good padre undergoes a very unusual religious conversion: declaring that God has abandoned him, he renounces Christianity and takes up the cause of righteous violence, his new icon a revolver he names “the Lord.”
LaPlante follows the path blazed by the likes of Troma, filling Holy Hell with profane jokes and violence a-plenty. While the premise would serve as a fine breeding ground for satire, LaPlante pursues a broader, coarser form of humor, sparing no absurdity or chance to offend. (He does, however, take the occasional shot at a smarter or sharper joke: Bane’s encounter with a married couple engaging in back-alley fellatio is a good example.) While Holy Hell rarely reaches the storied heights of splatstick classics such as Evil Dead 2, Braindead, or The Toxic Avenger, it works more often than it doesn’t.
Key to the film’s success are the impressive practical effects work (sadly, the film’s CGI effects don’t work nearly as well) and spirited performances. LaPlante’s stilted affectation of gruffness (which I hope is a parody of various actors’ interpretations of Batman) is perfect for Bane, but the quintet of actors playing the MacFarlanes own the show, particularly Michael Rawley as clan patriarch Dokes and the brilliant Reece Presley as the unhinged Buddy.
Granted, it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I daresay it’ll be the only movie you see this year that features a shoot-out between a Catholic priest and a drag queen in a kitten mask, and that’s gotta be worth something.
Friday, November 25, 12:00 AM, Cineplex Cinemas (Yonge and Dundas)
Tickets can be purchased at The Blood in the Snow website.