If this was the first time that a bingo hall had been used in a movie for something other than the banal pleasure that comes from winning prizes matching spaces according to a bunch of marked ping pong balls then it might have been a little more impressive. But all the same, Bingo Hell is a different type of crazy that’s fun to watch since it invites an idea that a lot of folks might not fully understand. After all, Bingo is something that some folks enjoy since it has an easy pace and isn’t that challenging but is something to do all the same, especially when prizes are on the line. But the prizes that are put up in this movie are the type that a person generally doesn’t want but will accept since they’re desperate and don’t know any better. Hell came down to the Bingo parlor doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the well-respected Charlie Daniels Band track, but at the same time, the mere idea is something that doesn’t feel like it would matter to anyone other than those that are set against the antagonist in this movie.
The audience is introduced to an individual early on that appears to be in a state of delirium, as the general feeling is that he’s made a deal that is about to get him out of his current situation, location, whatever one wants to think. But soon enough his joy turns into something that creates a feeling of panic and desperation as eventually he stuffs his mouth full of something that looks beyond nasty, whereupon he falls dead shortly after. If the audience was confused enough at this point then it’s likely that many would wonder just what they decided to watch. Following this, the audience gets to meet Lupita, who looks like a nice enough woman that’s let age get to her but is still determined to walk out of her home and survey the neighborhood of Oak Springs every day.
Of course, it appears that she doesn’t like everything she sees as businesses are closing up, people are moving, and hipsters are moving into the neighborhood, a development that Lupita makes clear that she doesn’t like. When she and her neighborhood friends Dolores and Yolanda join her at the local Bingo hall for a regular game in which the prizes are small but personal, it becomes rather clear that Oak Springs is populated largely by the old-timers that have stuck around for no better reason than because it’s their home and they don’t have anything else to do. When a new owner of the hall, the mysterious Mr. Big, starts plastering the neighborhood with ads asking people to come down to play his new game, Lupita is furious as Bingo has always been her and Dolores’ thing, and she can’t understand why the owner of the hall would ever sell. When she attends the game but doesn’t play she and Dolores witness the mother of Dolores’ grandson, a miserable woman by the name of Raquel, win a $10,000 prize. It’s then revealed that Raquel skips town with her winnings and leaves her teenage son in Dolores’ care, while the truth is revealed that Mr. Big’s ‘prize’ is an illusion and that he appears to be a collector of sorts.
Eventually, Lupita finds the owner of the hall, dead, and begins to receive visions from Mr. Big that convince her that she needs to do something. The gist of this movie is that Mr. Big comes swooping in, looking like a manic, grinning savior of those that want to win a big cash prize, but in the end, spoilers, they’re buying a temporary solution to their problem that becomes a horrific end that they didn’t anticipate. Greed becomes their downfall as Mr. Big is what might be a soul collector that lures people in with the promise of riches that can satisfy their every desire, and eventually enchants everyone in Oak Springs, save for Lupita and a couple of others that don’t play the game. The movie isn’t all that deep, but it’s a good bit of horrific fun that turns a bit bloody here and there but not so bad that it’s stomach-churning. The lessons within the story are easy to dissect since Lupita is so adamant about staying in her neighborhood that she’s convinced her friends to do the same, while the greed that lies buried in just about everyone is quickly coupled with the frustration they’ve felt over the years at their current predicament.
Bingo Hell is a quick bit of flash that people might enjoy more as a short story than a feature since the villain is a little over the top, but not so much that he’s not convincing. All in all, this movie was kind of a pleasant trip from the more serious and devoted stories that take up a great deal of time and thought.
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