Close, but no cigar

by Ed Blackadder

This is a real oddity of a film, with loads to love but more to not even like. Watching Hellbenders was a bit like eating spaghetti and meatballs, without the spaghetti being included in the recipe. The premise is good; the actors were kinda good; the characters were exceptionally good; the cinematography was meh; the effects were fun, but, what happened to the story? The key ingredient for a decent flick appeared to have been entirely forgotten. This is a film you need to watch based on individual parts, and certainly not as a whole, because at this it fails miserably.

The premise goes like this: A small group of cobbled together catholic priests, must each keep sinning in the name of the lord. The reason they must stay sinners and keep sinning regularly is so they can sacrifice themselves to the devil, in order that the demon they take from the possessed gets vanquished, and sent to hell, along with the priest. Sounds like a great idea for a fun horror-movie, right? Well, the idea is sound, but, the execution was a different matter.

Now for the actors. I’ve seen each of these performers in action before, and know full well they can do a gig like this with ease. They are a very talented bunch, but, perhaps the lack of enthusiasm they displayed was more than just the characters they were playing. The priests were admittedly supposed to by lacking in moral fibre and actual enthusiasm for the job, other than Clancy Brown’s character Angus, but you can really tell when someones heart isn’t in something. I don’t know the details, but I think I know unenthusiastic when I see it.

Written & Directed by
J.T. Petty
Clifton Collins Jr., Clancy Brown, Andre Royo
Release Date
18 October 2013
Ed’s Grade: C-

The characters themselves I did like, and even though they felt almost as contrived as the film, I just couldn’t help laughing at Angus’ constant outbursts of “motherf*cker!,” or “f*ckin’ what?” and “f*ck your driveling misdemeanors!” Just imagine he’s saying it to the small, yellow, porous, angular dude. I really like Clifton Collins Jr. who slides easily from big box-office extravaganzas to meager indie affairs. In other words, a worker, yet he always does his best. I really wasn’t getting that from him here, even though his lazy style is easily mistaken for lazy acting, but you can tell the difference.

As mentioned, I’m not familiar with the details of the making of this nearly-ran affair, from the usually talented J.T. Petty, other than it’s derived from his graphic novel. I am familiar with Petty’s other more effective, uncostly efforts, so enjoyed more of Hellbenders than perhaps I should have, by explaining away certain failures, and convincing myself it stood on its own merit. It really didn’t. If not for the characters themselves, this would have been totally unwatchable, however, the fact that I did like them so much helped immensely. The makeup was one other thing that was good, but little else.