On Halloween, teenager Dora discovers she is pregnant, but before she has time to even process the revelation, a nightmare descends. As her baby begins to grow at an alarming rate, menacing children in sinister masks swarm from the pumpkin fields to take the child, and they will stop at nothing until they have it.
One of the problems with horror is that it’s very, very easy to do it very, very badly. While Hellions is far from the worst horror film ever made (*cough*Birdemic*cough*), it also doesn’t have much to properly recommend it.
It’s disappointing that after Bruce McDonald previously gave us the fantastic and original aural zombie movie Pontypool, as well as some interesting episodes of otherwise mediocre TV series (Transporter; XIII), he has now gone down the well-trodden path of so many generic genre movies from decades previously, telling a story featuring little more than a screaming heroine laboriously menaced by supernatural forces. The film does have a few good ideas but none are adequately explored (Why are the pumpkin children killed by salt? What do they want with Dora’s baby? If the baby is human why is it growing so quickly?), and the climax is too surreal for its own good, not making it clear what is supposed to be truly happening and what is merely a nightmarish hallucination.
However, despite the generic plotting, McDonald shows himself to have a distinctive flair for visuals that saves the film from descending into irrevocable mediocrity. As events kick off, the town is bathed in a purple-white illumination like it has been enveloped in a UFO tractor beam or viewed through a negative filter, creating a sinister unreality that’s a refreshing counterpoint to the perpetual pitch of night usually seen in films such as this. The ashen purgatory is littered with scores of pumpkins, the numerous smashed ones perhaps the hatched eggs of the masked hell-children, showing where they keep coming from.
As Dora, Chloe Rose is by herself for much of the film, and unusually for an unknown pretty young thing she actually has the presence to keep you engaged, although the point of the virtuous purity of her features is perhaps slightly laboured by the fact she spends much of the film in an angel costume. It won’t be too surprising if she becomes this year’s breakout star in a similar fashion as Maika Monroe after The Guest and It Follows.
Unfortunately, it takes more than a cute girl to carry a film, and despite a moderately interesting premise, in the end Hellions is merely yet another supernatural horror flick largely indistinguishable from the dozens of DTV efforts lining the genre sections of HMV. Not even Robert Patrick’s all too brief appearance can provide it with the legitimacy it needs, and you also have to wonder why he doesn’t have better things to do with himself.
The best thing you can say about Hellions is that it shows its director and star to both have the potential to progress to greater things, but it also that it takes far more interesting material than this for such promise to be properly realised.
HELLIONS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: BRUCE MCDONALD / SCREENPLAY: PASCAL TROTTIER / STARRING: CHLOE ROSE, ROBERT PATRICK, ROSSIF SUTHERLAND, RACHEL WILSON, PETER DACUNHA / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10