“The Bell Keeper” is a flawed but fun film for fans of classic slasher tropes, urban legends, and B-level horror.
The Bell Keeper follows a group of friends who travel to a secluded campsite to film a documentary. What they find is something much more sinister than they could have ever imagined. The film set up is a typical group of young people avoiding all warnings and literal missing person posters going to a cursed location, Bell Lake, where they will face the consequences of ringing the bell… and Hank (Randy Couture), a giant man with an axe.
Director Colton Tran (Sorry, Charlie and Snow Falls), working from a script by Joe Davison (100 Tears) and revised by Luke Genton (Sorry, Charlie), does an excellent job connecting horror to urban legends.
Humans love a good story with a hint of fear, driven by the curiosity to know if the legend rings true. The characters in The Bell Keeper reflect that curiosity as they make their way to Bell Lake to ring the cursed bell in the middle of the woods for their documentary.
The twenty-somethings group consists of the smart one with the background knowledge of the lake, the pretty one, who serves as the face of the documentary, the two bros, and the little brother dragged along for this ghost hunt.
The acting fits the B-level vibe of the movie; it doesn’t take away from the scene, but it does not fully immerse you either.
If you know who Randy Couture is, from his MMA fighting days or his Expendable acting days, you may be wondering how he performed as the axe-murdering man. Well, it’s probably exactly what you expect. He’s a little robotic at times, but he really does give his all to the character.
Liam, the little brother played by Reid Miller, was my favorite character as he was the perfect fit for comedic relief. That added a fun and crucial element, much needed in any B-movie horror.
To their credit, the writers attempt to bring more depth to some characters through different family issues and tragedies, which is a welcome addition and helps give the film a bit more weight.
The score of The Bell Keeper did an excellent job adding to the tension, creating build-up, and cutting at the perfect time for comedic relief. The music held the weaker parts of the film together.
The special effects makeup for the possessed characters does feel a bit Spirit Halloween-y, along with the use of fog and some of the other special effects at the movie’s climax. However, the film is shot well and contains some iconic scenes that horror fans will love, such as the opening scene in the woods introducing us to our axe man and bellkeeper.
The locations are spot on for the genre and vibe of this film, including the run-down gas station and the cabin in the middle of the woods, as well as the campsite and cursed bell.
The mix of horror and urban legends blend well together within the plot; the film never leans too far in one direction over the other. The Bell Lake story is weaved through jump scares, screams, and laughs, which keeps the viewer invested in the story and characters.
Jeffrey Reddick is one of the film’s Executive Producers, best known for creating the Final Destination franchise.
It may not be the most impressive horror film you see this year, but at a lean 92 minutes, it’s a quick and consistently fun watch that will have you rooting for the villain the entire time.