23rd Jun2023

‘The Bell Keeper’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Randy Couture, Kathleen Kenny, Reid Miller, Mike Manning, Bonnie Aarons, Chaz Bono, Cathy Marks  | Written by Joe Davison, Luke Genton | Directed by Colton Tran

When the opening scene ends with a pretty cool and gory death, in what was a traditional but fun slasher film build-up, my hopes were kind of high. It feels like we have had very few new slasher movie villains to get excited about. Of course, Michael Myers, Chucky, Ghostface and more are still going strong but other than Art the Clown in the Terrifier franchise, no one seems to have lasted for more than one movie in more recent times. So when Randy Couture is standing tall as Hank, giant axe in hand, things were looking up. But the movie doesn’t quite pan out the way I was expecting.

The Bell Keeper follows a group of friends, including two brothers, who travel to a campsite at Lake Bell. A location where hundreds of people have apparently gone missing. They plan on filming a documentary on these disappearances, but after meeting Brittany – whose brother is currently missing – things become very real for the group.

Although the film can still very much be called a slasher movie, it does try to switch things up a bit so that it doesn’t tread the same path as thousands of other slashers. This decision ends up being a good and bad one in almost equal measures. What we do get are ‘demons’ thrown into the mix. The make-up for these demons isn’t great and it seems a weird choice to add to the story. How they are explained does make sense, and it helps the story go the way that the filmmakers clearly wanted it to go. BUT, I think I would have preferred a straightforward slasher.

Like many slashers, The Bell Keeper’s best moments are nearly all the death scenes. Using mostly practical effects (and the odd use of CGI), the deaths are brutal and violent, and usually with lots of blood. My only complaint is that there’s not enough of them. The Bell Keeper also pokes fun at the slasher genre a little bit. The characters pointing out the clichés from many horror movies and suggesting they will not fall victim to them. Of course, these characters still end up making plenty of dumb ‘horror movie’ decisions.

Another thing that The Bell Keeper gets right, is in its humour. It is actually funny several times over and there’s some well-written dialogue. Reid Miller (who I last saw in the fantastic Santa Jaws) as Liam is probably the highlight when it comes to laughs. He plays the ‘awkward in front of girls’ guy perfectly. Alongside Kathleen Kenny as Brittany, they are the two best performers in the movie. Thankfully, they share plenty of screen time. Randy Couture seems perfectly at home as a slasher villain. Not quite as much fun as say, Bill Goldberg in Santa’s Slay, but he certainly looks the part. The movie also features Bonnie Aarons (The Nun) in a short but entertaining role.

Director Colton Tran, despite his relatively young age, has twenty-seven IMDb credits to his name and the experience shows for the most part – the occasional shot did look a bit amateurish. I’d love to see him keep making movies in the genre because I have no doubt he could begin a new slasher franchise, especially with a slightly higher budget. The Bell Keeper will keep horror fans happy until then.

*** 3/5

The Bell Keeper is due for release on 28th August, courtesy of High Fliers Films.

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