Ben O'Toole stars in "Bloody Hell." Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The new horror movie Bloody Hell involves kidnapping, violence and cannibalism. The film's star, Ben O'Toole, says it has a psychological message in addition to the visceral mayhem.
"It's a film about identity," O'Toole told UPI in a recent Zoom interview ahead of Thursday's release in theaters and video on demand.
O'Toole plays Rex, a Boise, Idaho, man who foils a bank robbery. However, Rex serves eight years in prison because the courts find his recklessness caused an innocent person's death.
When released, Rex travels to Finland to escape the media and public still following his story. Unfortunately, a family of Finnish cannibals kidnap him, cut off his leg and tie him up in their basement.
"It's about a guy that's trying to escape his past, but ends up finding himself in a situation significantly worse overseas," O'Toole said.
Identity comes into play when Rex has conversations with himself. O'Toole appears in a dual role and says the second Rex represents his conscience.
"It's ultimately the person Rex would always like to be in every situation, but doesn't really give himself permission to," O'Toole said. "It's that voice in all of our heads."
The 29-year-old O'Toole has played military men in ensemble movies like Hacksaw Ridge and 12 Strong. The Australian actor also had roles in films like The Water Diviner and Detroit. Bloody Hell is his first lead role, and O'Toole gets to play his own sidekick.
Playing two Rexes meant O'Toole filmed each scene twice. He would film Rex opposite body double Josh Brennan, and then switch places to film the other Rex.
"Some days, that was a really big ask, like when he first wakes up in the basement," O'Toole said. "I did the conscience first, just exploding 'What the [expletive]? Why Finland?'"
O'Toole said he wore himself out screaming about Rex's predicament. By the time he filmed Rex regaining consciousness and discovering his injury, he didn't have to pretend to be worn out.
"No acting required," O'Toole said. "I was exhausted by the time we had to do that."
In the basement, Rex meets Alia (Meg Fraser), the daughter of the cannibal family. When they talked, O'Toole said he would prioritize the Rex character.
"The most important stuff is between Alia and Rex," O'Toole said. "Then we'd bring the conscience in over Alia's shoulder. In those moments, he's typically comic relief."
The simple scenario of a prisoner in a basement became a complicated visual effects production. Director Alister Grierson had to make the two Rex performances appear seamless. Then, he had to remove O'Toole's leg.
O'Toole said he wore a green sock, which allowed visual effects artists to digitally erase his real leg. However, O'Toole noted that Grierson did not want to create any more post-production effects work than necessary. When it wasn't necessary to see the missing leg, Grierson would frame shots above O'Toole's thigh.
"They had to be pretty strategic about what shots they did really want to use," O'Toole said. "Let's really think about what we're going to use in the final cut."
Sometimes, the sock itself caused simple mishaps that ruined the effect.
"The sock would slip down," O'Toole said. "That was a fun troubleshooting problem."
While imprisoned in the basement, O'Toole has his arms tied above his head for the entire movie. He was allowed to rest them in between takes.
"We did some long single shots," O'Toole said. "I would definitely start stretching after that."
Bloody Hell is available in theaters, at drive-ins and on video-on-demand Thursday.