Hellstone is a German horror film directed by Andreas and Achim Luetzelschwab. Written by Andreas, Hellstone was filmed in 2016, but didn’t see release until earlier this year on March 16th 2018. The film features German dialog, but English subtitles are available.
Many eons ago, God reportedly first shined the “Light of Creation”, which separated the realms of Hell and Earth. Lucifer opposed the separation, leading his armies into a war between the angels of Heaven and the demons of Hell. During this battle, a piece of Hell broke off and became trapped in mankind’s plane of existence, unseen by the forces of light. After innumerable centuries, this piece of Hell was finally discovered.
Throughout history, various “dark forces” sought to harness and control the power of this “Hellstone”, only to ultimately have the relic fall back in to the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. With evil continuing to dwell in our world, the church kept the stone hidden for many long years, only to eventually request that it be taken out into the world where it could be hidden and protected by a devout servant of God.
Sometime in the early 1960’s, the Vatican sent a monk out to hide and watch over the Hellstone. He would exile himself to the shelter and solitude of a cabin located deep in a forest somewhere in Germany. However, after many years of silence, the forces of evil have hunted him down and retrieved the stone. The monk is captured by a small group of deformed humanoid creatures adorned in black ceremonial robes and led to a predetermined clearing in the depths of the woods.
When the possessor of the Hellstone gets their own blood on the relic, they are given the temporary ability to walk between the worlds of Earth and Hell. This “underworld”, if you will, is much like our own world, only cold and dead. This “walking between realities” also slows down time for the possessor, granting them the means to escape from danger, or possibly cause some themselves. However, if the possessor of the stone is killed and their blood spilled onto the Hellstone, that person’s body is now open for possession from an evil spirit or presence, destroying the soul of that person. Which, coincidentally or not, is also what our agents of darkness intend to do with the monk. While this “entity” is unnamed, there is more than enough reason to believe that the spirit is a very powerful being. It may even be the Prince of Darkness himself, but that is never really said and should be considered as more of an assumption than a stated fact.
Meanwhile, a young man named Ben (Michael Glantschnig) is driving down the narrow road that runs through the forest. This forest is a “special” place for him, as it was a place that his late mother truly loved to be. Ben stops his vehicle after hitting an animal that had crossed the road in front of him. Concerned, Ben gets out of the car and attempts to find the wounded creature, but finds instead that it has vanished. A long trail of blood leads from the back of his vehicle off into the thick of the forest. Ben is undoubtedly much more of an “animal lover” than I imagine I could ever be because he follows the trail of blood deep into the woods, eventually reaching the clearing where the poor monk is about to be sacrificed.
Ben stands quietly, watching the monk’s murder from behind the relative safety of a large tree, albeit one that’s not quiet large enough to completely obscure him from view. He attempts to flee the scene, but alerts the robed figures to his presence as he does so. Ben makes a fast break for his car, unknowingly dropping the keys in the woods as he does. In his efforts to retrieve his keys and make it to the vehicle in order to make an escape from certain death, Ben is forced to play a game of “cat and mouse” with his pursuers, constantly attempting to hide conveniently just out of view. It’s arguably much too “conveniently” at times, but I’ll focus more on that later. All that said, the sequence is still fairly suspenseful, although the blaring daylight helps rob the forest setting of much of its “creep factor”.
There’s more than just “hiding” going on as Ben is obligated to fight for his freedom and his life on numerous occasions. He takes his share of physical damage, and faces moments of deception along the way, but manages to retrieve his car keys with all of his body parts intact. During his search/flight, he also stumbles across the Hellstone, which has just been haphazardly left laying in the clearing along with the Monk, who has risen to his feet despite having been murdered just a short time earlier.
It’s really not a “spoiler” to reveal that the monk’s body is now inhabited by a pretty nasty entity. Ben is attacked and falls to the ground, his bloodied hand landing on the Hellstone. This accident introduces Ben to the “underworld”, the last fragment of Hell remaining in the realm of man. This is also where the audience is introduced to the gruesome creatures that dwell in this realm: large, distorted masses of disfigured flesh than resemble a nightmarish Picasso painting of humanity.
While Ben’s touching of the Hellstone takes him to the realm of the underworld, it also stops time in our world, subsequently presenting him with his chance to escape the forest. He returns to his car and starts to drive as far as he can from the scene behind, just as the stone absorbs the last of the blood he shed upon, thus returning him to our plane of reality.
The dark, magical powers of the spirit inhabiting the monk prevent him from getting far, stalling out the car’s engine. In yet another of the film’s countless “coincidences”, the car stops very near the same cabin that the monk had been sequestered in all these years. Upon reaching the ominous “cabin in the woods”, Hellstone begins to careen headlong and full-tilt into Evil Dead territory. There is solid argument that it does so too much. These “similarities” include the discovery of a reel-to-reel recording detailing the history of the Hellstone, cabin walls decorated with stuffed animals, and a leather-bound ancient tome featuring interior images that are carbon copies of those found in the Evil Dead series’ Necronomicon. Hell, there’s even a chainsaw, ready to be put to bloody use in the film’s finale.
Hellstone climaxes fairly abruptly and in rather unspectacular fashion. That said, I’ll still give it a few bonus “style points” for the creativity that went into the concept. It’s a clever, humorous way to wrap things up. If anything, it might be the most “Ash-like” pf any of Ben’s actions up until that point. Granted, it’s much closer to something that Ash would have done in Army of Darkness than in the first 2 films of that franchise, but you should probably take what you can get here.
Hellstone‘s biggest “selling point” is undoubtedly in the special effects, most of which are accomplished with the use of little to no CG. Make-up and facial appliances look rather decent. The large abominations inhabiting Hellstone‘s “underworld” are also created without the use of computer effects and are fairly impressive. That is, until you get an extended look at them. The creature design is rather singular, with the monsters looking like a jigsaw of limbs and torn flesh. However, while there is valid reason to be proud of the beasts, they tend to be left on-screen and in full-view for a touch too long in most instances, which serves to accentuate the flaws and budgetary setbacks in the execution. Quite honestly, at times they just look like silly over-enlarged hand puppets, which is what they kinda are.
Hellstone is far from what I’d call a “great” film. It provides a few mild chills and some unique creature design, but it undeniably tries too hard to recreate elements from the Evil Dead films instead of finding and establishing its own identity. However, Hellstone‘s biggest misstep is that innumerable events and circumstances feel far too “convenient” to be fully excused away. Reel recordings happen to start at the most important part of the tape. The car just happens to stop outside the monk’s cabin. The chainsaw just happens to start on the first pull. It quickly becomes a little too much to swallow.
Ultimately, Hellstone is a fun, but forgettable watch. Worth checking out if you’ve got nothing else to watch, but you won’t be missing too much if you let this stone pass. Amazon Prime members can watch this one for free!