To Hell With A Bullet (2015)
I grew up a secret Metalhead. My father, who could have been the Dad in that Twisted Sister video “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, wouldn’t allow anything wilder than Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers in our household, and in my neighbourhood if my hair was long enough to touch the collar of my shirt, it was pretty much grounds for a criminal trial. So I would secretly tape late night radio in my bedroom, labelling my cassettes as classical or country music. As I got older, and my parents were too busy getting divorced to care, I could more openly appreciate heavy metal and hard rock – especially when it was married to my other favourite genre: horror (see my review for 1986’s TRICK OR TREAT here). And I remain appreciate – even of MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. Well, the soundtrack from AC/DC, anyway.
One of AC/DC’s contemporaries at the time, Johnny Crash, had as one of its original members Vick Wright, who’d come over from Tokyo Drift. Englishman Wright, real name Vicki James Wright, left the music business to try his hand in other works, producing a novel, South of the Pole, in 2007, and in 2010, wrote and directed a short film entitled WHITE TRASH NOIR produced by Vick Wright’s boutique film company, Vicktory Films. He won the Best Director for a Short or Feature award for this at the AOF Festival in Pasadena in 2011. Following up on this, he wrote and directed his first feature film, TO HELL WITH A BULLET. completed in 2013 (he won the Best Horror Film Award at the same festival that year) but not widely released until 2015.
Billy Quantreaux (Trenton Rostedt, THE STARVING GAMES) has been in the music business for years. He hasn’t been successful, but he’s certainly been in the business. And, like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect: not from the staff at the clubs where he plays, who ridicule him for his age, not from the members of his band, who kick him out because his voice is no longer what it once was, and not from his girlfriend Dallas (Danielle Vasinova, who starred in Wright’s WHITE TRASH NOIR), who has been stripping to support him (to be fair, he sponges off her and snorts any money he has up his nose). They have an argument, and when he pushes her back, she trips and falls backwards, and a high heel from her shoe pierces the back of her skull.
Also, how did that happen? Best not to ask.
Billy does the sensible thing: he picks up Dallas’ body, puts it in the bathtub, and then goes to bed to sleep it off. He wakes up to a call from a record producer, who’d heard a demo tape of his band and is promising to come to their next gig and sign them up. But what can he do with a voice like Harvey Fierstein gargling razor blades?
Fortunately, he gets another call from a doctor, Nick Devyril (Timothy V Murphy, from TV’s SONS OF ANARCHY and TRUE DETECTIVE), who hides his horns, cloven feet and pitchfork long enough to promise Billy to return his singing voice, and all Billy has to do is give him ‘everything’. Billy, who doesn’t really come across as a promising Mensa candidate to begin with, signs up. “I haven’t got anything to give you anyway.”
The fact that Billy’s voice is restored without his having to undergo even a pretence at a medical-related cure, the band take him back, and Dallas, still in the bathtub, keeps coming back to life to insult him or give him some pithy if belated advice (“When you’re used to getting everything for free… you forget that everything has a price.”). There’s a building manager who gets bumped off as well, not to mention a redneck neighbour (Ronnie Gene Blevins, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS), who suspects what Billy has done to Dallas and the manager but is willing to help him dispose of the bodies in order to get some rent-free living out of the deal (and get some oral attention courtesy of the dead Dallas – umm, ewww).
It’s one of the oldest stories out there – sell your soul to Devil, and he’ll trick you – but it can still be told, if you don’t try to make it seem like this is something new (‘Nick Devyril’? What happened, was Louis Cypher busy managing One Direction?). Wright has the seed of an idea here, and makes some clever allusions to past musical artists who might have received some infernal help – but doesn’t spend all that much of the movie’s 1 hour 46 minutes addressing it. Most of the movie is taken up with Billy’s dealings with his neighbours and his dead girlfriend, and only in the last five minutes does he actually mention the deal he made – although he does manage to give the ending an unexpected twist.
Acting wise, Rostedt’s Billy is convincing as a guy who’s been in the business for years, knows in the back of his head that he will never make it, but can’t do anything else. And Murphy’s Devyril is good in an underused role (and is one of the few cast members who doesn’t look like he’s reading his lines from cue cards). In addition, there’s a decent soundtrack (that I couldn’t find online, otherwise I would have bought it), and Wright has some talent as a filmmaker (there are scenes where Billy meets the Devil via dreams, in the desert, that have a hypnotic quality), though he still has some way to go (shots that were stitched together with fadeouts would have been better with straight cuts). Also, he might want to have a word with the DVD packagers; the cover (and other posters and promotional art I’ve seen) makes the movie look like some Tarantinoesque thriller.
TO HELL WITH A BULLET is available on DVD and VOD, and the trailer is below.
Director: Vick Wright
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. Party on.