TIFF Journal: ‘Hellions’


Movie Rating:


Cult Canuck filmmaker Bruce McDonald made an unexpected late career shift into horror seven years ago with ‘Pontypool’, and it worked out so well that many hoped he’d get back into that spooktacular saddle. Thankfully, the wait is over with the release of ‘Hellions’, a goofy and surreal little horror lark that may not be a new genre classic, but is definitely a whole lotta fun.

Chloe Rose (‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’) stars as Dora, one of those brooding teens who adults just don’t understand. She wears dark clothes and listens to indie rock, has a boyfriend with dyed black hair and is just trying to figure out who she is. It’s Halloween, which should theoretically be a great day for her type of dejected adolescent. But nope, even that doesn’t work out! Dora finds out that she’s pregnant in the morning and gets ditched by her boyfriend at night, leaving her to march around her home alone on Halloween night, all dressed up in a slutty angel costume with nowhere to go. Then a few creepy trick-or-treaters start banging on her door and won’t go away. In fact, the longer they stick around, the more reality starts to bend and contort into a nightmare.

‘Hellions’ starts out as a pretty straightforward Halloween fright flick, the kind that would make kids go giddy on the night of the big holiday. McDonald slowly builds up a sense of dread, punctuated only by stabs at twisted comedy. Then, once the big ol’ genre romp is set into motion, things start off with the standard jump scares until McDonald starts messing with the color palate and distorting reality along with it. Dreams blend into dreams and characters transform into monsters. It’s a nutty, wild and (most importantly) fun ride, and not a bad li’l nightmarish take on the fear of parenthood either.

Unfortunately, the simplicity that is the movie’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Simply put, there’s not really enough content here to sustain a feature length running time. Even at a trim 82 minutes, this thing feels needlessly padded out. Scenes like one where Robert Patrick shows up to shout out exposition and over-explain the film’s mysteries are a waste of screen time that drag the movie to a halt. ‘Hellions’ would have likely worked best as a short or as part of an anthology film, but that’s not what we got. The stretched-out version is still at least worth watching, if only for McDonald’s effectively creepy show-off directing.

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