“Hellions is quite often serenely eerie due in no small part to the perfectly timed and abrupt musical changes, and the visually stunning contrast of black and white against pastel colors. Combine this with children in masks who speak a lot like the Borg and I imagine this is the kind of intensity Children of the Corn should have evoked were it not boring me to death instead.” -3.6/5 (genre)
Yet again another movie based around Halloween, an ever recurring theme in the horror movie genre. However, unlike The Hollow, Hellions was a complete and wonderful surprise. As is often the case with movies I dig up on Netflix, I didn’t go in with high expectations, just an optimism that is usually crushed within the first five minutes. But here I was treated (not tricked – I said it deal with it) with a diamond in the rough as it were. All puns aside, Hellions is quite often serenely eerie due in no small part to the perfectly timed and abrupt musical changes, and the visually stunning contrast of black and white against pastel colors. Combine this with children in masks who speak a lot like the Borg and I imagine this is the kind of intensity Children of the Corn should have evoked were it not boring me to death instead. Also, I can’t remember a time where a fetus had such a large amount of dialogue, well written and executed, but still a tad peculiar.
This is the story of Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose), a 17 year old girl who lives in small town in what I assume is Canada based on the fact that it is a Canadian film. She spends most of her time it seems with her boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk) and if her clothing and make up are any indication just generally gothing out. Interestingly, it turns out that Dora isn’t really that much goth and is really just an average teenage girl, which the movie establishes for you pretty quickly. I do have to say that I was really impressed by how the movie took its time getting to the horror/action portion, and did some character and world building for us. Before we are thrown into the midst of all the action, it honestly feels as if we know Dora and have some reason to feel a connection to her. She is told by her doctor that she is four weeks pregnant, a fact she doesn’t take well, and chooses to keep to herself for the time being.
It is of course Halloween in a small town that apparently thrives on Halloween commercially with what could only be described as a gross over production of pumpkins. Dora heads home where her mother (Rachel Wilson) and brother Remi (Peter DaCunha) are preparing to go out trick-or-treating. Here we get our first introduction into what is to come, as she sees bag-head (that’s right) outside briefly. Once her mom and Remi leave she prepares herself to tell Jace that she is pregnant when a trick-or-treater comes to the door. This particular kid is bag-head, and he stands there not saying anything despite Dora’s insistence on him saying “Trick-or-Treat”. This is followed by one of my favorite lines from the movie, as Dora closes the door on him she says “Good luck with puberty”. For some reason this caught me as extremely funny. From here, it becomes less funny and more intense.
Speaking of bag-head, he is quite disturbing in a Scarecrow from Batman kind of way (Dark Knight Trilogy), much unlike his soon to be accomplice bucket-head. Come one man, you’ve got a bucket on your head, couldn’t you have been a bit more intimidating like rat-head or lion-head, or the especially disturbing doll-face (not at all in keeping with the original usage of that term). All of the children in this movie do an excellent job of being terrifying, and while they are limited in lines, they really require none both story wise nor for creep factor. Chloe Rose (Dora) does an excellent job of portraying a distraught teenage girl, who just got life altering news, and now has to deal with being terrorized by demon children who want said child. The movie is strongly protagonist centric, with all other characters revolving around Dora as if she were the sun, and while that is a somewhat tiresome theme in my moving watching as of late I still feel it worked well. Chloe pulls it off as nearly a one woman show except for her few interactions with other humans, and definitely carried this movie with a great deal of success.
The remaining characters felt a little more like cardboard, flat, static, and basically just scenery for the misery that is Dora’s new life. Her mother and brother serve little role other than to give us context. Jace is barely in the movie and is of course the father of Dora’s unborn child, and Doctor Henry (Rossif Sutherland) is almost laughable as a believable person. This was undoubtedly due to the acting as Sherriff Mike is far more believable even if he is still an obvious prop in Dora’s drama. That leaves Dora’s unborn child who speaks to her on an almost regular basis, adding to the already very unsettling atmosphere.
The overall tone and constant feeling of tension is a welcome change to the more common disinterest that accompanies many horror films. Hellions successfully kept me rather tense throughout, no small feat as anyone who has read my other reviews would likely know. The continuous alteration in music, color vs black and white and the ability to give a good jump scare without relying on them for intensity and focus make this movie work. There are long stretches of highly intense action which is suddenly followed by a deep calm that is even more unsettling than the chase.
The apprehension during the moments of calm was often worse than when the children were actively trying to capture Dora. This was one of the aspects of the movie that I really enjoyed, that somehow the “down” portions of the movie (which all movies have) were somehow still “up” portions, almost as if the typical paradigm was completely inverted, up is down and down is up. I have to say well done to the director and Chloe on this. The visual beauty of the movie also captures your attention, and holds on to you even if you don’t notice it doing so. There are some aspects of the movie that bring a huge amount of tension that unfortunately get overused a bit, and at about 15 minutes remaining begin to become tiresome. Fortunately, it’s right about this time that the movie switches gears and begins its drive into the home stretch, bringing it all together.
Which brings us to the ending. This I feel is up to some debate, since it seems pretty obvious what is happening early on and we can imagine at least three different possible endings while watching. The ending itself, while not perfect, is good and rather satisfying. It left me feeling as though I needed just a bit more to get a firm grasp on what was being said, but gave just enough for me to still consider that the movie didn’t end exactly the way it seems to at first glance. This may sound a little confusing but will make more sense once you get there. Dora’s baby having the last line in the movie was a nice touch that maintained the creepiness felt all throughout right up to the credit roll.
Hellions is a movie that is greatly undersold by its title, and of course the ever infamous Netflix description. It plays out as both a social commentary (what horror movie worth its salt doesn’t) and as a horror film. Fortunately for us, Hellions also delves into some very artistic and even metaphysical ideas that push it just out of horror into something more. The characters are solid for the most part, the directing is good and the tension and creepiness are sure to keep most people entertained. There isn’t an over abundance of jump scares typical of this type of horror, but instead a long steady rising tension leading up to the end. Hellions is well worth the time, and a lot of fun to watch. If only we could have talked bucket-head into a different costume.
Overall: 3.6/5 (genre)