Though not necessarily bad, Hellions promises so much more than it ends up delivering.
Bruce McDonald’s Hellions is almost the dictionary definition of frustrating, as it starts off by showing huge potential, only to then go and squander it all as it delves further and further up its own anus. A misjudged attempt at blending ghoulish Halloween fun with something deeper, the film struggles to find its own identity, and as a consequence will end up disappointing both gore-hounds and those who like their horror a bit more psychological. But that’s not to say that it is without merit.
The film centres on Dora (Chloe Rose), a seventeen year old girl who discovers that she is pregnant on Halloween. Unable to muster up the courage to tell either the baby’s father, or her own family, she instead decides to stay at home and take some time to think whilst everyone else is out celebrating. However, that relatively modest intention doesn’t go according to plan, as a gang of demonic trick-or-treaters come knocking at her door, seemingly intent on stealing her unborn baby, and things only get weirder as the night goes on. The power goes out, the world enters some kind of odd, dreamlike state, and her pregnancy seems to be progressing at a highly accelerated rate. Also there are llamas. For some inexplicable reason.
There’s plenty of good stuff to say about Hellions. For one thing, Dora makes for a sympathetic and engaging heroine, one who sells a convincing arc that takes her from girl-next-door to Sarah Connor over the course of just one night. Secondly there are some genuinely unsettling moments (most of which involve blood leaking out of specific places). The Hellions themselves also make for threatening adversaries, especially when they are accompanied by their ridiculously catchy sing-song theme music.
Unfortunately the film just becomes tiresome as it goes on. The dreamlike tone messes with the pacing whenever it feels like it should be picking up, the ventures into surreal territory are hit-and-miss at best, and a sickening filter renders everything in a hideous pink hue, making the whole thing look like a SyFy channel original movie. Worst of all though, is that it becomes increasingly confusing. Strange editing techniques – clearly intended to disorient – do achieve their goal, but also make certain scenes nearly unwatchable. Additionally the final 10 minutes feel a bit like a bad student film in their efforts to produce some kind of ambiguity.
Perhaps McDonald thought he was making something edgy and profound, but the truth is, Hellions works so much better when it just focuses on trying to be a good horror movie, and not on abstract storytelling. A rare case where a little less ambition may have given us a better film. Still, you can’t fault someone for trying.
Hellions (2015), directed by Bruce McDonald, currently has no scheduled UK release. Certificate 15. Full details of all of the films showing at Film4 FrightFest can be found here.