Director Gigi Saul Guerrero, writer Shane McKenzie talk ‘Bingo Hell,’ working with goop, directing larger-than-life horror characters


Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Mr. Big (Richard Brake) rewards Raquel (Kelly Murtagh) in “Bingo Hell.”

Noah Levine

“Bingo Hell,” part of Amazon’s “Welcome to the Blumhouse” film series, premiered Sept. 24 at Austin’s Fantastic Fest. The goop-splattered film follows a group of elderly town residents who band together against a malicious bingo master that sets up shop in their neighborhood. The Daily Texan spoke with the film’s director Gigi Saul Guerrero and writer Shane McKenzie about crafting their newest horror experience.  

The Daily Texan: How do you approach writing a screenplay with an ensemble cast?

Shane McKenzie: There’s definitely ensemble qualities, but it’s absolutely Lupita’s story. It’s not like A, B, C, story and all these people, it’s how do they relate to her? We get into her relationship with each one of (the characters), and then once we’ve done that, we see them as a group. … It’s always through Lupita’s perspective.

Gigi Saul Guerrero: Once that part of the writing is done, putting them on screen with such seasoned actors like this cast, they understand the balance of when it’s each other’s time and how to influence each other’s performances. 

The Daily Texan: Can you talk a little bit about working with all of that practical slime and blood in the film? 

GSG: I was just stoked that Shane put that on paper. As soon as I saw slime I was like, “You’re my best friend.” For me I was like, “This is a total throwback.” I grew up with “Goosebumps,” I was that kid that wanted to be drenched in slime. Day one of shooting was Clarence’s moment in the auto shop. I’m like, “Wow! We are starting strong with this film.” Working with blood and slime on the same day. And motor oil. And an actor that has never had blood on him before. … I just told him, “Keep your eyes closed, and it will all be OK.” 

DT: What was your favorite scene to write? 

SM: I would have to say in the finale when they are all beating the living sh*t out of Mr. Big. I was laughing as I was typing. Exactly what (Gigi) filmed. It could’ve been like a projector in my forehead because that’s exactly how I saw it. 

DT: The head smashing scene was cool!

SM: Yesterday (at Fantastic Fest) was my first time seeing the film with the special effects done, and when I saw that, I was like, “That made it way worse!” I wrote it that way, but I didn’t know if we could do it with COVID-19, so I had to trust in special effects.

DT: How do you approach directing extravagant horror characters like Mr. Big?

GSG: Richard Brake was hesitant, he even thought from his audition tape that he went too big. I told him, “No, it really works for this character and I’m gonna allow you to go even bigger.” That ending, I love how Shane wrote that dialogue with Lupita … (Richard) just went bananas. I used all of his footage in the film because he was wild. Approaching these larger-than-life villains, you need the actor to trust you that it’s going to work. I kept reminding him, “I want horror fans to cheer for you. I want them to love every time you’re on there.”