The following piece was submitted by Joseph Perry, writer for Gruesome Magazine. He’s also the 1st of multiple writers joining us from That’s Not Current, as well as a writer for Phantom of the Movies’s VideoScope magazine and other publications. You can follow his blog at tastethemilkofchocula.blogspot.com, or follow him on Twitter at @JosephWPerryJWP.
For his entry, Joseph presents a look at 2015’s Hellions. While I do know of the film, I have admittedly not seen it. That will probably be changing as Joseph does a fantastic job of “selling” the film, while still capturing the Halloween spirit that is at the heart of this series.
“Hellions” (2015): Pint-Sized Demons Plague a Pregnant Teen Mom in Halloween-Set Shocker
By Joseph Perry
When I first saw the Canadian effort Hellions (2015) — director Bruce McDonald’s first return to horror since Pontypool (2008) — at South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) in 2015, it became not only one of my favorite fright flicks of last year, but it also instantly earned a spot as one of my all-time favorite Halloween-themed movies. From its pint-sized villains bedecked in the creepy, old-fashioned, pre-Ben Cooper style of homemade costumes that pop up in photos online every year around this time, to the decorations on display outside the heroine’s front door, to exploding pumpkins and eggs hurled at houses, Hellions is rich with Halloween atmosphere.
On Halloween day in her town that proudly proclaims itself “the pumpkin capital of the world,” teenager Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose) learns that she is four weeks pregnant. She is confused and scared but decides to go ahead and attend a big party with her boyfriend, as they had previously planned, and spring the news on him sometime during the evening. Her brother and mom go out for the evening, after which some sinister trick or treaters begin harassing her. It’s not candy that they want. They are after Dora’s baby, they want it tonight, on the night of the Halloween blood moon, and they mean to take it in an extremely savage way. To make matters stranger, the baby is growing at the rate of about one month per hour. Dora has few people who can help her survive, such as doctor Henry (Rossif Sutherland) and Sheriff Corman (genre stalwart Robert Patrick). Corman has prior, first-hand experience with these demonic entities. Rose is terrific as Dora, who battles the titular demons while wearing her Halloween angel costume and her mother’s prom queen tiara, and the supporting cast members all turn in fine performances, as well.
The premise of a lone teenage girl trapped in her home and pursued by one or more boogeymen is nothing new, especially in the pantheon of Halloween-set fright fare. What sets Hellions apart is that the film creates its own bizarre, surreal, fever-dream world. Those averse to dream sequences may find themselves wincing a bit during this movie as Dora goes in and out of subconscious states more than once, but there’s no mistaking that she is truly caught up in a supernatural world.
Running with a screenplay by Pascal Trottier (The Colony , A Christmas Horror Story ), McDonald plays, in the best sense of that word, with different cinematography (by Norayr Kasper), editing, and aural styles, combining familiar terror tropes with fresh ideas and images into a melange of cinematic techniques that keeps viewers on their guard throughout the film. At a certain point (I’ll avoid spoilers in this review), Hellions is suffused with infrared as the titular entities terrorize Dora and describe in detail the gruesome fate they have planned for her. This artistic choice puts some viewers off but I think the effect works just fine to show that Dora is trapped in a supernatural setting that is far different from the bright autumn day that she knew just a few hours earlier. The film is also imbued with a soundscape that runs the gamut between eerie to raucous to discordant, complete with some disturbing taunts and childlike chants. The score by Todor Kobakov and Ian LeFeuvre is one that won’t soon be forgotten by viewers of Hellions.
Some viewers may wish that the film would have focused more strongly on the symbolism of Dora’s pregnancy and its pro-choice/pro-life anxieties for a teenager, but hey, I am more into Hellions as a fun, visually and aurally inventive exercise by McDonald. It makes for an entertaining Halloween horror feature that should find its way into the viewing schedules of fright fare fans every October. The film holds its fair share of shocks, chills, and the red stuff, as well. I was as wholly spellbound by Hellions on a recent rewatch at home as I was when I first saw it on the big screen at BIFAN, and I had a blast with it both times as more of a sensory immersion experience than an exercise in narrative and metaphor. I recommend Hellions for your Halloween season viewing and hope you enjoy it.