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Hellbender (2021) Movie Review

I've Been A Film Enthusiast as Long as I can remember. I Suffer from the Same Disease Leonard did in Memento.

Growing up is also bender.

Growing up is also bender.

MPAA Rating

N/A

Running Time

86 minutes

Directors

John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser

Writers

John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser

I know families have their own issues to work out, but if my family of origin tried making horror movies together instead of trying to get me to play the f*cking piano or be an accountant, then we’d probably still be in touch.

Yeah, but they’re dead now.

Do you know who’s not dead? Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, and John Adams. They’re collectively known in the horror community as The Adams Family and for a couple of years have written and directed horror movies they’ve also directed and written together. The cast and crew lists are filled with people with the same last name and at the end of every shoot they sacrifice one of the less important Adams family member for the wrap feast.

In 2019, The Adams released The Deeper You Dig, a decent supernatural story warning you never to engage in a hit-and-run lest you suffer the consequences. It was watchable but most if not everything was telegraphed and you could see the budget constraints with some of the special effects. There were times it looked like the garage shoot from Boogie Nights. I mean that in a loving way.

Sacrificial Adams At The End of Shoot:

Adam Adams

Last Words:

“I didn’t sign up for this.”

After I finish this review I get to have a bite of Adam Adams as the Adams family mailed me a couple of slices. I’ll eat them as a reward for finishing the review.

At least there’s one slice left. Maybe they’ll mail me other family members.

That must have taken her 3 hours or more.

SYNOPSIS

Hellbender opens in the olden times with a bunch of women in burlap sacks tying a young woman to a tree. It looks like they’re trying to hang her. Why? We don’t know but I’m sure it’s for a good reason.

The young woman looks like she’s dying in 3…2…

Nope. Still kicking.

The other woman have looks of consternation, like “When will this b*tch die already?” Some people are so inconsiderate with other peoples’ time.

A sigh of relief passes over the crown as the woman is finally dea—

No, still alive. This is getting tedious.

But now the young woman spontaneously bursts into flames, much to the shock the burlap crew. You normally don’t see that kind of behavior from hanging young women.

Scroll to Continue

Unless…

Hellbender opens again in the present day. A garage band consisting of a mother and daughter are playing in their, um, garage. Their song is called “Women cut women”. A catchy tune with a fun beat.

We meet teenager Izzy (Zelda Adams) and her mother who’s only known as Mother (played by her real-life mother Toby Poser). Mother and Izzy live pretty isolated in the woods on a large forest property. For years all they’ve had is each other and Paul Rudd.

Izzy hasn’t really made any friends because Mother has repeatedly told Izzy that her immune system is weak and she can’t be around other people or else she’ll get even sicker. We all think Mother is lying.

Mother goes into town to pick up supplies while Izzy hikes in the forest. She knows it well because it’s all she’s ever known.

Izzy frolics, sings songs with the woodland creatures, builds a cabin in the woods, and has herself a me-party when a strange man appears in front of her. He (John Adams, Zelda’s real life father and the second President of the United States) says he was jogging but got lost.

This only took her 4 hours.

This only took her 4 hours.

Izzy has never met another person other than Mother, much less a man. She tells Jogger he’s trespassing. Jogger says he’s the Uncle of one of her neighbors. Izzy is perturbed. She tells Uncle Jogger that she’s sick and can’t be around people. Jogger just wants directions to get out.

Mother just happens to arrive in time to see what’s happening. She sends Izzy away and leads Jogger Uncle towards the main road. Jogger apologizes profusely.

Mother says it’s perfectly okay and asks Jogger if he has a wife and children.

Jogger Uncle says no and that’s a strange thing to ask a random per—

Mother levitates him, cuts him, drinks his blood, and then turns him into dust like at the end of Avengers Infinity War.

Izzy feels altered by this experience. She wants more than this solitary existence. She’s met a new friend Amber (Lulu Adams, I have no idea how they’re related) and Amber says her uncle has been missing for a couple of days.

Izzy begins to suspect something. Not just because her mother has lied to her about being sick. Izzy and her mother have a band called Hellbender. But she’ll soon learn that it means something else entirely.

Wrong coming of age movie with a young female protagonist.

Sacrificial Adams:

Chantal Adams

Last Words:

“I thought I won a raffle or something."

Izzy's new whitening strips will come in handy.

Izzy's new whitening strips will come in handy.

What Works With Hellbender

  • Zelda Adams owns the screen as the Izzy. Her arc has elements of familiarity with other movies of its ilk, but there’s more than enough to keep you off balance and you realize Izzy may not be as predictable as you originally thought.
  • For a movie with obvious budget restrictions, there are some pretty realistic special effects. Most of the time they don’t even feel like special effects as they fit in seamlessly with whatever’s going on in the scene. Some of the supernatural elements of The Deeper You Dig felt limp because of the DIY aesthetic. You won’t be thinking that during Hellbender.

What Doesn’t Work With Hellbender

  • Hellbender is a solid coming of age movie with dark elements peppered throughout. But there’s isn’t a lot that actually scares, unless teenage girls terrify you. The first scene in the movie is the most chilling. Nothing else in the movie matches it.
What's in the box?- But say it like Brad Pitt.

What's in the box?- But say it like Brad Pitt.

Overall

The Adams Family remain a unique voice in horror. Hellbender is a wonderfully dark mother/daughter relationship drama with bloody consequences. Zelda’s teenage angst has a body count. If you sat through last week’s insipid Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this is quite the upgrade, not that it would take a lot.

Really 3.5

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Noel Penaflor

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