Review: HELLIONS Offers A Messy Anti-Choice Nightmare

Not content with simply being a bad, near unwatchable movie, Hellions feels compelled to moralize to the audience with a thinly veiled pro-life cautionary fable. The end result is an art house horror flick with an 80 minute runtime that feels like it takes 9 months to get through.

Seventeen year old Dora spends her Halloween morning ditching class in order to share a joint and a snuggle with her boyfriend Jake in an endless field of pumpkins. This moment of tranquility proves short lived after she receives word from dr. that she is four weeks pregnant. Panicked and convinced it has to be an error doors fear is compounded by the fact that is a minor the doctor must inform her mother no matter what decision the girl makes. She returns to an empty house, waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up and take her to a Halloween party and her nerves grow more jangled with each minute he is late and each text he fails to answer. Already frazzled beyond any point she believed imaginable, Dora’s mood grows even darker after an unnerving encounter with a pint sized trick or treater who looks like an even more nightmarish version of The Scarecrow as imagined by Christopher Nolan in the Dark Knight films. ScareKid returns later in the evening with two friends in tow and a nasty surprise to boot: the severed head of Dora’s baby daddy sitting atop their candy loot.
So far, so good as Hellions looks to borrow elements from The Strangers, Them and even Rosemary’s Baby. However, from the moment Dora recoils in horror at the site of her beloved’s dead eyes, Hellions goes full bore into unreliable narrator territory. The film borrows heavily from The Wizard Of Oz at times, including a sequence in Dora’s kitchen where hurricane force winds rattle the inside of her home and cause chaos and confusion during the girl’s frantic 9-1-1 call. From there it’s one waking nightmare moment after the other. Dora finds herself up to her neck in a stall filling with menstrual blood one moment, then passed out in a field, fresh as a daisy the next. Over the course of a single evening Dora grows from four weeks to four months preggers. The trick or treaters multiply in numbers while demonstrating themselves to be supernatural in nature. For whatever unexplained reason, they have a deadly reaction to salt.

Unfortunately these moments and deliberate choices by director Bruce McDonald fail to build any sort of interesting narrative or contain any sort of connective tissue to give the viewer something to latch onto. McDonald’s deliberate choice of blood and pinkish red filters along with cranking the sharpness for the landscapes for the bulk of Hellions lend it a mixture of walking nightmare mixed with an exaggerated stage play. Unfortunately, these choices come at the expense of both narrative cohesion and character development. The audience is given no reason to care for dora’s predicament aside from her being involved in every scene. Despite a lean 80 minutes of run time, Hellions feels overlong and sluggish due to its repetitive nature. It feels like torture to sit through, not unlike being squashed between two 400 pounders in the middle seat of a cross country flight. 

The one theme Hellions manages to drive home is a sense of anger and injustice regarding women having any control over their bodies. The growing horde of murderous children have determined Dora wants to ride herself of the child growing inside her despite the girl never revealing her intentions one way or another. The anger seems to stem from her having an internal debate over what course she should take, rather than just accepting whatever a male-in this case her physician or boyfriend-tells her she should do. The deliberate choice of Dora’s angelic costume and tacked on ending act as further support for one of the more blatant works of anti-choice cinema in a long while. 

If McDonald wanted to create a darker Wizard of Oz he should have taken a page from Pink Floyd’s book. Cut out all the dialogue, compose an original score that plays every second of the film and create an extended, feature length music video. That might be an experiment worth watching. As it is, Hellions is an overlong slog that you should avoid.

Mike Snoonian

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since 2009 Mike has written about independent horror, science fiction, cult and thrillers through his own blog All Things Horror along with various other spots on the web. Film Thrills marks his attempt to take things up a notch, expand his viewing and writing horizons and to entertain and engage his audience while doing so. When Mike's not writing or watching movies, you can find him reading to his little girl, or doing science experiments with her, or trying to convince her that the term "chicken butt" comes from people putting chicken nuggets down their underwear. at age five, she's too smart to believe most of what he says.

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