Hellions – Sundance 2015

Festival CoverageSundance 2015

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Hellions, the latest from Canadian director Bruce McDonald is overwhelmingly disappointing considering how impressive his 2008 horror venture Pontypool was. On Halloween night, Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose) is a fraught pregnant teenager all alone as the Pink moon looms. Shut-off from the rest of the town, a group of demonic child-like beings called Hellions threaten Dora’s body and soul as a fight for survival ensues.

The most clinging issue with Hellions is its utter lack of originality. Fans of Michael Dougherty’s fantastic Trick r’ Treat will be shocked to see the Brian Cox imp sequence dragged out to the 82 minute mark in a feature boisterously composed of genre tropes and previous endeavours. Rose is great scream-queen but she’s not getting enough to play with once Halloween night starts.

Technically, McDonald’s latest is grossly uninspired filmmaking. The camera work isn’t all that bad, it’s just not anything special, but the editing and sense of movement has the sticky feeling of an ill-conceived TV movie, and that’s dangerously dissociative. Smear this with the strange pink visuals of the “blood moon” (which sounds cool, but looks oddly like the dodgy otherworld segments from Phantasm) and everything starts to look a little ill-conceived. The imposing soundtrack of childish la-la-la’s works for the first thirty seconds then becomes a blatant intrusion on the feature, a near-laughable composure with no interest in adding anything to the film.

Considering how much is old-hat, Hellions’ strange near-experimental sequences are a head-ache, mulching the narrative into a squashed pumpkin of tedious segments which have nothing to say except confusion. That’s probably the most irritating thing about the film, its first 20 minute set-up a fairly solid horror venture putting everything into place. The later revelations are so out-of-the blue you’ll feel cheated or just plain bamboozled. Even cult regular Robert Patrick, though cool as hell, cannot rescue the film, along with the heroine, because his own backstory has the whiff of projectile vomit, thrown forth with no eye to how it impacts his character or the rest of the feature.

Hellions initially slips up by letting its soundtrack peak too soon, trying to force scares in when we haven’t slipped into the cold waters of growing tension. From its aborted initial spooks, Hellions stamps out the potential for us to ever be really creeped out by its near-whimsical threats, which have some pretty cool masks and unsettling sound design, but never really lift off the page.

Granted there are a few interesting ideas, some cool looking threats, and at least one great scare, but that’s not enough to make a decent horror film. McDonald disappoints when paired with Pascal Trottier’s messy script. Horror in the vaguest way.



Dir. Bruce McDonald

Stars. Chloe Rose, Rachel Wilson, Rossif Sutherland, Luke Bilyk, Robert Patrick

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