Hellions (2015) Film Review from the 37th Annual Sundance Film Festival, a movie directed by Bruce McDonald, starring Luke Bilyk, Nicholas Craig, Sydney Cross, Peter DaCunha, Stephanie Fonceca, Robert Patrick, Chloe Rose, Joe Silvaggio, Rossif Sutherland, Karlo William, and Rachel Wilson.
Hellions, by Canadian director Bruce McDonald; explores the terrors of teen pregnancy and demonic trick-or-treaters in this Halloween themed horror flick. Despite the promising attempt at more traditional and iconic horror film themes and elements, Hellions falls a bit short in execution. What should have been a film reminiscent of “Rosemary’s Baby” plays out more like an episode of “Are You Afraid Of The Dark” or “Goosebumps”. Even with only an 81 minute run time, it still feels a bit overlong. The horror genre isn’t known for its clever plot devices and character development, so it may be far reaching to expect as much from this undertaking. And while there are the genuine moments of spookiness and cheap thrills we all look for in a horror film; in the end, cheap seems all its chalked up to be.
Starring Chloe Rose (Canada’s Degrassi: The Next Generation) as high school senior Dora who, after sharing a joint and a relaxing start to the holiday with her boyfriend in a pumpkin patch, discovers she is pregnant during a routine doctor’s visit. Things are about to turn sour for the teen as her plans to spend the night with her boyfriend are canceled and she’s left alone to briefly wrestle with how she is going to break the news to him when her mother and younger brother leave to go trick-or-treating. Then, all hell breaks loose. Literally.
Things start off promisingly, as a creepily costumed kid in a disturbing sackcloth mask comes to the door for candy, but keeps returning and with increasing numbers of other sackcloth clad kiddos. Rather than a gradual build or a bit of exposition, the screenplay then takes a violent (pun intended) turn.
Unexplainably, Dora’s baby begins to grow at a rapid pace as gale force winds fill the house and she is relentlessly tormented by the children. This nod to The Wizard Of Oz gives McDonald an excuse to give the film an excessive rose violet filter. This initially seems to be done for symbolic effect and even inspires the audience to question just how much of this is in her head when coupled with the jarring cutaways and a menacing chorus of children’s voices. It’s unconvincing whether any of the action is actually happening or is all the figment of Dora’s imagination.
Ultimately one can tell this decision was made to mask the fact that the entire movie was obviously filmed during the day despite it being set on Halloween night. Unfortunately, to the visual fatigue of the audience, the violet tint remains for the rest of the film.
As the film continues, calls for salvation from the blood lust children out for Dora’s baby, lead to a fruitless visit from Dora’s doctor and the local sheriff, played by Robert Patrick, whom audiences will remember as the unstoppable cop masquerading robot in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. Patrick’s character seems to have an awful lot of experience with baby-obsessed mayhem causing munchkins. How convenient.
For as thin as the material is, Rose must be given much credit for her performance. The script doesn’t allow for really any depth or character development, but she just narrowly succeeds in convincing the audience to root for her or at least see the film to the end. Unfortunately, most viewers will not likely stick around to find out the fate of Dora, but rather to find out if the audience is given a reasonable explanation for everything. Audiences that enjoy a nice, crisp, clean ending which ties up all the loose ends in a perfect little bow; will be disappointed.
While Hellions isn’t for every audience, those that enjoy a good old fashioned scare will relish in the directors throwback to traditional horror. I must admit, I genuinely jumped in my seat numerous times. A response very few modern horror films, obsessed with the gore factor, have succeeded in eliciting from me. The film is far from Oscar worthy, but despite its flaws, is a fun ride.
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