Sunday, November 1, 2015

In short: Hellions (2015)

Teenager Dora (Chloe Rose) has a decidedly bad Halloween when she learns she is unwantedly pregnant. While she’s still pondering what to do (at least she’s not in the US but in Canada, so she actually has options), and is home alone preparing to tell her boyfriend, some rather frightening trick or treaters in creepy costumes begin harassing her in manners rather supernatural.

I am very glad director Bruce McDonald has made another genre film, for, much like his brilliant Pontypool, Hellions takes a common and generic sounding plot and turns it into something special and strangely (given that I don’t think McDonald has much experience being a pregnant teenager) personal. I don’t think this one will be as popular among the horror crowd as Pontypool was, though, because Hellions is a much weirder, more metaphorical film, less clear in the story it is telling, and so invested in being dream-like and truly strange it’ll rub anyone interested in more traditional storytelling the wrong way.

Me, I found myself fondly remembering the best of Italian horror cinema while watching it, Fulci and al seeming not far away once the film’s sure-handedly realist (that is to say, involved with quickly and deftly establishing its main character as a person instead of a cliché) introduction was over. Sure, Hellions is far less gory than comparable Italian films, but it is very much in the same business of building a dream-like creepy mood through non-realist storytelling, clearly taking place in a moment where the rules of logic and normal narrative don’t apply anymore, so also using All Hallow’s Eve properly. For my tastes, McDonald is rather good at this sort of thing, too, quickly going from one set-piece to the next, every single one of which seem taken out of nightmares and the shared horrors of humanity. He’s doing so for cheap, too, on a limited spacial scope, with only a handful of actors, the camera, some creepy costumes and deeply un-real(ist) light carrying the film’s weight. Unlike most of the Italian films I felt reminded of, McDonald’s film does offer a rather clear interpretative reading, but because he’s not really pushing that onto his audience, I let that slide.

What really drew me in – apart from the seamless way Dora’s reality drifts into the unreal – was the wonderful weirdness of it all, the pumpkin fields under the film’s strange fake blood moon light, the voices out of nowhere, the score’s chanting children, “blood for baby”, the way pregnancy turns into a form of body horror. McDonald – again unlike my beloved Italians - also clearly understands the difference between “weird” and “random”. While the supernatural occurrences never make sense in a traditional way, they do belong to each other, suggesting a world that doesn’t work by logic but by rules simply not made for humans.

Which is quite a thing for a film about teen pregnancy.

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