Guts Reaction: Bucking Hell

Bucking Hell is a short film by James Kermack. It’s about three men stuck on a sinking ship, with only one life-jacket. They sit below decks playing an improvised version of Buckaroo to decide who gets the life jacket – hence the title.

The Buckaroo is worth describing in more detail. It’s like a mix between a Blair Witch Project twig sculpture and a four-year-old child’s junk modelling. It’s really quite special.


The film is a fine study of men on the edge and it’s darkly hilarious. Dick-waving about who’s got the biggest scar – that’s scar not car - takes up a significant proportion of the character’s dwindling time.

Gradually, the terrified and ridiculous bickering breaks down into Beckettian existential reflection. At this point real characters begin to emerge. One shows himself to be a cynic to the end, while another reveals an unexpected, if horribly violated, sensitivity.

Bucking Hell is a very accomplished short film. The performances – from David Schaap of the Inbetweeners, Nicky Evans of Shameless and Geoffrey Breton…  who is less well known but should be…. are impeccable.

Like many a short film, I wanted it to be longer.

James Kermack’s first feature film - Hi-Lo Joe, about a love affair haunted by trauma - received mixed reviews.  But Kermack’s clearly got an eye for compelling set-up and characters, and tightly controlled narrative. He’s currently putting together a dark action thriller, Knuckledust, and I’ll certainly be looking out for it.