Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
Written by: Pascal Trottier
Starring: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson, Peter DaCunha & Luke Bilyk
There’s no easy way of saying this. HELLIONS is a painfully bad movie. Not only is it a scare-free experience, but the film is inept at everything it tries to do. This is a pity because there was quite a bit of potential built up for this Halloween-centric horror story. Bruce McDonald previously directed the highly unusual PONTYPOOL and the idea of his new movie revolving around demonic trick-or-treaters sounded like a crazy good time to begin with. Unfortunately for everyone (both those involved and the poor viewers suckered into watching this crap), HELLIONS winds up laughably bad in spots. When it’s not unintentionally funny, the film is just plain frustrating for the remainder of its endurance-testing 80 minute running time that feels like an eternity.
Dora Vogel is a newly pregnant 17-year-old coming to terms with the life growing inside of her. She has yet to reveal the news to her mother and simply wants to forget her current situation by partying with her boyfriend on Halloween night. Dora puts on her angel costume and waits for her future baby daddy to arrive. Instead, a group of monstrous trick-or-treaters come knocking with intentions of taking the unborn life inside of our teenage protagonist. Something strange happens and Dora is cut off from the outside world. An endless army of these Hellions are upon her and the pregnancy is moving along at a ridiculously fast pace. Dora must fight off these Hellions in order to survive the night and protect her unborn baby.
Going into HELLIONS, I was basically expecting a feature-length version of the final story from TRICK ‘R TREAT. The plot didn’t need to be exceedingly complicated and wasn’t. In a sense, this did feel like someone saw the Sam storyline in TRICK ‘R TREAT and thought to themselves “Hey! I could do that for an entire movie.” The whole thing is messy as little to no effort seems to have been put into this movie on both the screenwriting front and the technical side of things.
An unbelievably wooden performance from Chloe Rose and the intellectually challenged character of Dora make this movie hard to like from the beginning. There are no discernible features to separate Dora from a variety of other final girls. In fact, the way in which Dora is introduced almost ensures that no viewer will easily sympathize or root for her to make it through the night in one piece. The only other cast member of note is Robert Patrick as a grizzled police officer. He shows up for a couple of brief scenes and provides the only enjoyable moments in the film (one of which is unintentionally hilarious). However, his character isn’t on-screen nearly enough to save this movie from devolving into a pile of tired horror clichés, poor writing, bad acting, and over stylized visuals.
A decision was made that could have provided a lot of a creepy atmosphere in HELLIONS, but is overused to the point of becoming downright annoying. Bruce McDonald shoots Dora’s encounter with the Hellions in infrared. This means that there’s a red tint over most of the scenes as well as some odd color contrasts. While this technique could have potentially been a successful mood-setting decision, HELLIONS definitely suffers from it. Cheap digital effects, a seemingly endless montage (that had everyone in the audience checking their watches), and multiple dream sequence fake outs make these 80 minutes feel far longer than they should.
The biggest sin that HELLIONS commits is in the title creatures themselves. With a plot centering on a teenage girl trying to survive Halloween night against demonic trick-or-treaters, one might expect the monstrous trick-or-treaters to look and act…well, menacing! Instead, the Hellions are not even slightly frightening and wear cheap looking Halloween masks. That’s not meant to detract on creepy old costumes, but I expected more effort to be thrown into the appearance of the Hellions. Is it too much to ask that the would-be creature design doesn’t reveal the child actor underneath the costumes or speed up their movement in an half-assed effort to be scary?
When HELLIONS started off, I was getting a decent vibe from it. As it progressed, I was getting the slight sense that this might be a disappointment. As soon as I saw a dollar store quality bit of a make-up that was intended to be taken seriously, I began bracing myself for the possibly of a bad film. HELLIONS becomes an endurance test of the worst order as I (and those around me) found myself struggling to make it to the end credits. It’s a cheap, poorly written, badly acted, and infuriating piece of would-be horror filmmaking that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. HELLIONS is the cinematic equivalent of receiving a toothbrush as opposed to candy while trick or treating on Halloween night.