Drive-In Dive In: Hellions

Posted: August 19, 2015 in 2015 Fantasy FilmFest, Drive In, Horror, Reviews
Tags: , , ,

Hellions
If Hellions is the third feature on the drive-in line-up this weekend, take the speaker off the window after the second flick, and call it a night. Even with a crisp 80-minute runtime, this would-be scare fare about the Halloween night from Hell is not worth the time or heartburn from snack bar French fries.

The most unsettling aspect of Hellions is its treatment of teen pregnancy. At its worst moments (worst as in truly bad rather than frightening), this otherwise conventional horror story comes off as right-wing, pro-abstinence, anti-abortion political propaganda. If you’re a seventeen-year old girl who screws around with her boyfriend even once, be prepared to get knocked up and then visited by evil children intent on taking possession of the unborn, all in short order and, quite naturally, all on Halloween night.

High schooler Dora (Chloe Rose) is no explorer in this one. Fresh from getting the news that the rabbit died from Doctor Henry (Rossif Sutherland), she winds up at home dishing out candy to trick-or-treaters after Mom and little brother head out and before boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk), the wanton impregnator, turns up. Ding-dong goes the doorbell and, on cue, we come face-to-face with the creepiest part of the film: kids. Specifically, kids in extremely well-executed costumes. The first pair are the Scarecrow and Bucket Head, the latter not an ironic title but a kid with a bucket on his head. Okay, it doesn’t sound disturbing, but it works nonetheless.

The dynamic duo is more intent on tricks than treat, and they proceed to harass Dora with repeated bouts of Ding Dong Ditch and annoying renditions of children’s songs until she is left with no alternative but to call her doctor and the sheriff (Robert Patrick). Patrick is looking old, but he still has the great voice, and his presence here is a reminder of how the makers of Terminator Genisys should have found a place for him in that movie, and also raises the question of whether he’ll have a role in the X-Files reboot. Needless to say, his participation in Hellions will not stand alongside his performances in those franchises as a career highlight.

Director Bruce McDonald, in collaboration with his production team, does a nice job in keeping the film visually intriguing through the use of jump cuts, color blanching, and unusual lighting. At the same time, these tricks don’t lead to the treat audiences are looking for – genuine scares. Lead actress Rose, who bears a passing resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence, does admirable work, including a very strong sequence in which she squares off with herself in a mirror.

The fatal flaw is the script. No explanation, plausible or otherwise, is ever offered for the haunting beyond Dora’s condition, which loops back to the point about an incoherent yet disturbing message about pregnancy. Instead, we have a stream of repetitive sequences that always seem to end with Dora tied up spread-eagle in a field. Cross your fingers that there’s no sequel to this one unless you are waiting to see Scarecrow and Bucket Head show up at a Planned Parenthood clinic next Halloween.

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