PROPERTY OF SHUDDER
[TO THE POINT]
" Hellbender fails to strike the right chord..."
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"A lonely teen discovers her family's ties to witchcraft."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
Hellbender opens like a great intro to an awesome heavy metal song. It's dark, nightmarish, and feels like something you shouldn't be hearing or in this case seeing. Opening with a flashback to what appears to be the 17th century involving townsfolk hanging a local witch in violent fashion, this is abruptly followed by a smash cut to the title sequence. This was all I needed to see in order to know that I was strapping in for one hellish ride.
After the opening, the film understandably pumps the brakes to show that this movie is a cautionary coming of age story infused with horror. Izzy (Zelda Adams) is a teenager that we quickly learn has been sheltered from the real world and the everyday people in it; being told by her mother, played by filmmaker Toby Poser, that she has an illness and shouldn't be around other people. Living in a house out in the country on a mountain away from civilization, Izzy passes her days by hiking in the woods that surround her house, playing drums in a 2-piece alt-rock band with her Mother (aptly called Hellbender), and learning more about her capabilities as a young ‘Hellbender’.
One of the most striking elements of the film is how effective and dazzling the visuals are. Whenever Hellbender powers are being used there’s a slight jolt that pulls you in. Toby Poser could make a hell of a music video one day if she wanted to. However, even with the exciting opening and the impressive visual moments on screen throughout the movie, there are bumps along the way that keep it from being a smooth ride. Moments of stiff dialogue and acting, specifically.
After the Metal-AF opening, the film understandably pumps its brakes, but then rides them until the last scene. There are some interesting moments sprinkled throughout, that ultimately can't save the story from feeling one note.
Just like with any great song, you need more than an impressive opening with a few fun moments to make it truly memorable. Hellbender fails to strike the right chord that would have had you singing it's tune like an earworm of a song that you can't quite seem to get out of your head.