Welcome To The Blumhouse: Interview with Gigi Saul Guerrero for Bingo Hell

A group of senior citizens take matters into their own hands when a sinister character turns up at their town in Bingo Hell – part of Amazon Studios’ Welcome To The Blumhouse. We spoke to the film’s co-writer and director Gigi Saul Guerrero about the universal game of bingo.

Bingo Hell Poster

Part of 2021’s Welcome To The Blumhouse, Bingo Hell sees a sinister figure threaten the residents of a low-income community and a feisty senior citizen trying to stop him!

After 60-something neighborhood activist Lupita (Adriana Barraza) discovers that her beloved local bingo hall has been taken over by a mysterious businessman named Mr. Big (Richard Brake), she rallies her elderly friends to fight back against the enigmatic entrepreneur. But when her longtime neighbours begin turning up dead under grisly circumstances, Lupita suddenly discovers that gentrification is the least of her problems. Something terrifying has made itself at home in the quiet barrio of Oak Springs, and with each new cry of “Bingo!” another victim falls prey to its diabolical presence. As the cash prizes increase and the body count steadily rises, Lupita must face the frightening realization that this game is truly winner-takes-all.

A wickedly original horror movie with a fiendishly funny twist, we spoke to Bingo Hell director and co-writer Gigi Saul Guerrero about playing bingo over Zoom and how she was inspired to write the move by her grandmother…

How did everything start for you with Bingo Hell?

I had worked with Blumhouse before, for the Into The Dark series, and they were like, ‘alright Gigi, what do you have next?’ and I’m like, ‘wow, okay!’. So one random day, I was talking to the co-writer of Bingo Hell, Shane [McKenzie], and he just said to me: ‘Guess where I was last night? I was at a bingo hall – they’re crazy! They’re the most competitive seniors I’ve ever seen in my life. I had no idea that bingo was such a competitive sport!’

So I said to him: ‘Listen, my grandma, my abuela, she’s obsessed with bingo too she plays it all the time with her brothers and sisters in Mexico!’

Then he said the magical words: ‘I wonder what would happen if we took bingo away from them?’ and I was like: ‘They would murder somebody!’ [haha] They would legit kill somebody, and they would get crazy, so we just got so inspired by the idea of seniors kicking ass in a movie.

Also bingo is a universal game that everybody knows, so it all started from there!

It was simply giving Blumhouse two sentences of an idea, and they were like ‘that‘! It’s super cool how open they are to these wild ideas.

We guess that with writing the movie during a pandemic you weren’t able to conduct much research in bingo halls…?

No, it’s true but I did show up to a few of the Zoom bingo parties that my grandma would have with her relatives! In Mexico it’s called loteria, that’s the Mexican bingo, and they would play it all the time on that!

You know, I’d never thought I would Google documentaries about bingo, never did I think they would even exist and there was so much cool stuff about bingo and the game. So it was really cool research. It was so interesting how much this game means to all the players. A lot of them have been playing it for over 30 years, going to the same hall. So it was a really cool experience to research so much of this game.

What was the process like co-writing the movie with Shane McKenzie and Perry Blackshear?

That process was a lot of fun, I think all of us got very inspired during the pandemic to write ALL the things! But with times like these (because it’s still going on), I feel like we need a lot more fun in films. We need so much more escapism and it’s okay to laugh with a horror movie. It’s okay to poke fun.

So our direction and our process was ‘how do we want to see our grandparents in this film?’ We wanted to create the true meaning of community and the true meaning of friendships. Those money-can’t-break friendships. It was so much fun creating colourful characters because if you look at the heroes of Bingo Hell, they’re all different. Different race, different colour, different accents. So hopefully it’s a representation of where a community can and should go.

Speaking of those colourful heroes, what was it like creating characters of an older generation?

Well we all know they’re the most charming, the cutest, but God bless them, they’re stubborn [haha]! They’re the most stubborn human beings on earth, so it was easy!

For me, I am my grandma’s best friend, my abuela really is my best friend, I love her to death. So creating the lead character of Lupita was easy for me. Because I’m so close to my grandma, I know her like the back of my hand. So, I personally was really inspired to dedicate this character to her. So that was a lot of fun.

The character of Lupita (pictured, played by Adriana Barraza) in Bingo Hell was inspired by Gigi Saul Guerrero’s real-life abuela.

Bingo Hell has a mixture of comedy, social commentary and gore – how was it to get the balance right for all of those elements?

At the end of the day, that balance was the characters, if this was with kids, or the typical young adults, I don’t think it would have worked. With that charmingness, that stubborn cuteness that seniors bring… they’re so wacky, they’re already the wackiest people out there! So I was inspired to bring back that vibe of movies from back in the day that we love like Cocoon, or Batteries Not Included.

I haven’t seen a film like that since a long time ago, so why not put them in a horror setting? It works out really nicely. I think at the end of the day, horror and comedy go hand-in-hand; they’re perfectly parallel, which is why I think it works. Then you see a lot of people nervous laughing when they see the gore! So I think it already works out, the two genres blended together.

What is it about those two genres that go so well together?

I think a lot of us, when we’re scared, we try to find quick solutions of how to feel better and a lot of it comes through laughter. When we’re nervous, when we’re afraid, we can laugh about it too.

I like to say that horror movies are escapist films. We see a lot of stuff on the news that is heartbreaking. With this genre, you can actually mould and bend very intense subject matters, sometimes social commentary, and why not put some humour on it? It’ll get us to pay attention. It’ll get us to talk about it after the movie’s done.

My goal is not to make people suffer through those 90 minutes, with this film especially. So I think if you can bring humour, laughter and gore, blend those together you get the famous juice of fun!

What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?

Our goal was to make a horror movie you can invite your grandparents to watch with you. So you can be like, ‘look the heroes are you guys’. But also we want people to walk away from this, not just for the love of our seniors around the world but also the love of community, the strength of friendships is exactly what this movie represents. Money can manipulate you but strong friendships can never be broken. So we wanted to really make a movie that stands for that.

Bingo Hell will be released on 1 October on Prime Video.