As a kid, we used to get The Movie Channel as part of our cable package. Now, it didn’t come in clear or anything. For whatever reason, there were these constant white bars which kept running through and made seeing anything on screen beyond difficult. Being the young, hungry horror fan I was, though, I would still tune in on Saturday nights in my bedroom to watch their weekly horror double feature. While they would sometimes show a more studio backed film, a large majority of the time it was a super low budget, straight to video horror film. Ones which were very clearly made by people who just wanted to get a movie made. Even if the film wasn’t very good, there was a certain spirit not usually found in the studio backed ones. Regardless of the quality, this is a memory my movie loving mind cherishes to this day. Hellbender did a great job of reminding me of this time.
I have to first admire this film even exists. This is the definition of low budget, DIY filmmaking. Made by an actual family of filmmakers, this is a coming-of-age story involving a whole lot of witchcraft. The effects aren’t the best I’ve seen, due to the budget, but they know how to film it so it’s not on screen for a very long time. The rather small cast also does a pretty good job. Performances aren’t the best I’ve seen, but they’re not bad and the actors are clearly giving their all. If only the film was more engaging. Since there’s only two people the majority of the time, the mom and daughter, it makes the slow moving and sometime aimless story not the most exciting thing to watch. Especially with the lack of an ending. It’s been awhile since I’ve finished a film and genuinely sat there thinking if that was really it. Don’t mean this as a positive in this case. Several plotlines don’t feel concluded and it felt more like the set up for the actual ending.
Hellbender concludes a month of Shudder releases which seem to focus more on the drama and less on the horror. While these type of genre film do work, a month of mediocre ones at best does start to wear thin. Again, absolute credit to this filmmaking family in making a truly DIY movie. Just wasn’t my cup of tea.