“Blood for Baby”!!!
What’s better than a Halloween-themed horror film being released during the Halloween season? Having said horror film being made by one of my favorite indie filmmakers, Bruce McDonald. In the horror world, McDonald is most well known for the 2008 film PONTYPOOL, written by Tony Burgess and considered by many to be an “unfilmable film.” Well, McDonald showed the world that with enough talent and vision that anything can be accomplished, and how he is back with HELLIONS, about a high school girl being terrorized on Halloween night by a pack of vicious trick or treaters. Everything I’ve come to expect from McDonald is here, and though the film stumbles in the fourth act, I still found this film to be hugely entertaining.
HELLIONS stars Dora (Chloe Rose), a high school girl who lives in a very sleepy town and who looks as though she is going through all the usual rebellions of a girl her age. Sure actress Rose looks too old to be playing a high schooler, but she brings so much charm and depth to the character that I was willing to overlook the casting choice. As the film opens, we see Dora hanging out with her boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk). They are talking about the Halloween party they are planning to attend later that night. It is Halloween and from the looks of it, the town they live in produces a lot of pumpkins. One character even notes that if it wasn’t for Halloween, no one would even know their town existed.
Later that day, Dora gets some troubling and distressing news from the doctor, and she tries to figure out how she is going to break the news to Jace and her mother Kate (Rachel Wilson). Just when Dora gets the courage to tell her mother what is going on, Kate tells her she really needs to take Remi (Peter DaCunha)–Dora’s little brother–trick or treating. Dora is all alone in the house, which is in an isolated location, and waits patiently for Jace to come pick her up for the Halloween party. Instead, a spooky kid in a pumpkin costume knocks on the door and Dora shares an intense, creepy moment with him. Then a little while longer, two spooky kids show up at the house. Then three. Then more. This isn’t going to be a good night for Dora as the kids terrorize her and let her know they want something from her and won’t leave until they get it.
The set up and execution of the early scenes of the “kids” laying seige to Dora’s home are excellent. We get the style and substance that I’ve come to expect from McDonald. The kids are extremely creepy and very effective. McDonald also colors his scenes with some very distinct color schemes. At times, the film has a pinkish-red hue, while other times there is a bluish hue and a yellow hue that covers the screen. These colors aren’t just McDonald’s attempt at being “stylish,” but represent the mood of the scenes they are coloring. Towards the end of the film when things are looking bleak for Dora, the film takes on a darkish blue-gray hue and really helps set the mood for what is about to happen.
Most of the film is Dora, alone in her home, defending and fighting off the little Hellions. Much of the success of this film rests squarely on the shoulders of actress Chloe Rose (Dora). She is strong, focused, a survivor, and Rose plays the role perfectly. Once you see her performance, you’ll forgive the fact she looks way to old to be playing a high school girl. But I’d rather have a great actress who looks a little older than the character she is playing rather than a younger actress who couldn’t pull off the role. Rose exhibits just the right amount of vulnerability so she doesn’t become a Rambo-esque character, but she also isn’t someone who will ball up into the foetal position and break down into hysterics. Rose did a fantastic job in her role as Dora.
At different times, two other characters come to Dora’s help–or should I say “help.” Dr. Henry (Rossif Sutherland) ends up stopping by Dora’s home and becomes involved in the horrors that are happening. He provides some insight into what he thinks might be going on. Later in the film, the town’s sheriff, Corman (Mr. Liquid Metal himself, Robert Patrick) comes to Dora’s rescue… sort of. He provides much of the explanation as to what is happening and does his best to protect Dora.
During the fourth act, HELLIONS takes a detour into some surreal and trippy territory. While these scenes are stylish and beautiful to look at, they unfortunately derail the narrative that was established in the film up to this point. These scenes end up becoming more of a distraction from the main story. This is a shame that the film loses its focus for a little bit because up until this point, McDonald had given us a great story and ‘seige on a house’ plot. The stalk n’ slash scenes are really well done, and the way the mystery unfolds as to why this is happening to Dora was very well done.
If you can get past the surreal interlude, then I think you’re going to enjoy HELLIONS. McDonald is one of those rare filmmakers that delivers on both style and substance and doesn’t sacrifice one for the other. HELLIONS is a really fun Halloween time horror film that is perfect to watch all alone with the lights out. Check this one out.
Director: Bruce McDonald
Plot: 3.5 stars out of 5
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer