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Sundance Film Review: Hellions

on February 02, 2015, 10:20am
D-
Director
Bruce McDonald
Cast
Luke Bilyk, Nicholas Craig, Sydney Cross, Peter DaCunha
Release Year
2015
Rating

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sundance cos 2Hellions is a horror movie which aspires to the heights of ‘80s-style, holiday-themed horror, fused with the twin terrors of creepy little kids and pregnancy-based anxiety. What it lands on is a mercifully brief but nevertheless tedious bit of unfocused genre schlock. Hellions sets up some interesting atmosphere and turns the skies a nauseous shade of pink, and then spends the rest of its running time aggressively milking that aesthetic for all it’s worth. After that goodwill runs out, there’s still a solid hour of film, so here’s hoping that children singing songs is the scariest thing on the planet to you. If it’s not, Hellions has precious little to offer.

On Halloween night, Dora (Chloe Rose) is planning to stay home, despite all of her loved ones’ insistences that she enjoy the holiday. Dora, however, has bigger problems, namely the unexpected pregnancy she only discovered earlier that day. Her boyfriend wants her to come party, and she agrees. But he’s late in picking her up, and these annoying little kids in strange masks won’t stop pounding on her front door for more candy. Then the sky turns pink, and Dora starts hallucinating. What’s suddenly trapping Dora in her home? Is she just hallucinating from the pregnancy panic? Why is Robert Patrick conspicuously cast as a weirdly unconvincing police officer? How did the guy who directed Pontypool (Bruce McDonald) make a film this dully stylized and vacuous?

Hellions makes it clear, fairly early on, that Dora is in fact being attacked. It’ll cheat on that more than once, because the only intrigue it can muster after the 20-minute mark is casting doubt on what’s actually happening and what’s not, until it’s time for the film to conveniently make a decision on Dora’s behalf when it’s due to bring the whole flaccid thing to a close. The film’s occasionally graphic bursts of violence turn virtually every character introduced into cannon fodder; outside of Dora, the only character traits are easily stratified sets of Mad Libs like “boyfriend who smokes weed” or “doctor who talks in foreshadowing” or “the one familiar face in the whole cast.” These aren’t spoilers on who lives or dies, mind you, but they’re so interchangeable that it wouldn’t matter if they were.

Hellions has style to burn, but that only lasts for a few minutes before the film reveals itself as a disappointingly empty exercise in that and that alone. Whatever message the film has about the fear and/or joy in creating new life is lost in a fog of hackneyed character designs and nonsensical narrative turns that offer stylish images straight out of an industrial rock video but little in the way of anything truly frightening. It’s a film that assembles enough hallucinatory images and scary kid noises to masquerade as a horror movie, but goes no further. It looks and sounds like a lot of other movies, but never gets around to synthesizing those influences into something lasting, or even watchable. More to the point, Hellions offers so little beyond a repeated chant and some grotesque visuals that there’s not even much to say about it. It’s just a copy of a copy of a copy.

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