Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In short: Hellbenders (2012)

The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints is the final option in exorcism. When nothing else helps, these holy men and one woman (embodied by the wonderful acting ensemble of Clifton Collins Jr., Clancy Brown, Andre Royo, Robyn Rikoon, Macon Blair and Dan Fogler) are prepared to invite a demon into their souls, commit suicide and drag it with them to hell. Of course, to actually be able to drag anyone to hell, you need to be hell-bound, so when the Hellbound Saints aren’t exorcising, they are sinning left and right (and clearly also in even more sinful directions). Name a debauchery, and they’ve done it.

Right now, the Hellbound Saints are the only thing standing between old Norse god eater Surtr who is bound to burn the world to cinders and destroy humanity and their god(s) in the process. Not surprisingly, things get rather messy, particular when Opus Dei (boo!) decides to shut the embarrassing group of debauchers down.

Despite my admiration for J.T. Petty’s small but excellent body of work, I wasn’t too sure about Hellbenders going in. It was not just my usual doubt about horror comedy as a genre (and the humungous number of horror comedies that just plain suck), but a fear that the film would just blow up a single one-note joke at too much length.

I shouldn’t have doubted Petty (not sure about Jesus), though, for Hellbenders not just uses this one joke as a basis for a dozen other jokes, much funny cursing (talk dirty to us, Clancy Brown!), and other shenanigans but also treats it as the basis for some clever as well as funny worldbuilding. It’s the sort of film that takes a ridiculous idea and then begins to actually think it through, heaping excellent absurdity on excellent absurdity to make sense of the last absurdity until the combined absurdities become somewhat logical; also, very funny.

Hellbenders does not really lend itself to any kind of tight plotting, so its rhythm is more like the exhausted (professional sinning is tiring) stumbling gait its protagonists prefer, the plot meandering through outbreaks of violence, blasphemy, and swearing. I didn’t mind, though, because said outbreaks are generally very funny, and funny, people tell me, is what comedies are supposed to be.

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