Hellbender is a horror film that was directed by John Adams, Zelda Adams & Toby Poser. Releasing in 2021, it focuses on a mother and her daughter, Izzy who live a life of seclusion in a mountainous area of the United States. Izzy will soon discover that her family has a past related to witchcraft. Within her is an insatiable dark power that her mother has been trying to prevent from being unleased upon the world.
Izzy is naturally curious about the outside world. Every day she ventures further and further from her home in the wilderness. Eventually, she comes across someone’s summer home where she meets another girl named Amber. She befriends Amber and is invited to attend a gathering at the pool in a few days with some other friends. Elsewhere, her mother is having dark premonitions about Izzy. At the gathering, Izzy learns that “sickness” that her mother had convinced her she had was a lie. Izzy was told that she had been kept away from society due to this illness. Additionally, she is coerced into eating a worm as part of a drinking game. Consuming the life of the worm unlocks something sinister within Izzy, she screams in agony.
Then, the group are discovered by the owner of the home. They disperse but Izzy is confronted by the man. He berates her before it cuts to black, leaving his fate a mystery. Once Izzy returns home, her normally playful demeanour has changed. Her mother knew this day would come and sees it as an opportunity to teach Izzy to control her new powers. Izzy develops an uncontrollable hunger for living flesh. Her mother explains that they needed to do things differently in order to stay undiscovered. However, as time goes on Izzy becomes harder and harder to reach.
Watch Hellbender to see where this all leads.
I really, really enjoyed Hellbender. This is an exemplary horror film that takes what is a clearly limited budget and uses it in the most effective ways possible. I’ve watched so many horror movies with low budgets that are poor in other aspects as well. Hellbender is the complete opposite. The budget may be small but it excels in other departments regardless.
Firstly, the acting from the two leads is fantastic. They have a lot of convincing chemistry as mother and daughter. Although, I will say that I thought the supporting characters acting wasn’t very good. The dialogue is well-written as well with a few cool sounding lines which is always a plus.
The locales used in Hellbender are really nice, an excellent setting. The cinematography really utilizes this as well as delivering a number of artistically pleasing shots elsewhere too. Additionally, there are a number of tension filled scenes that worked well for me. The gore is minimal but it’s very effective due to the ways in which it is used.
The whole sub-plot of Izzy and her mother having a band is super random. It probably could have been cut from the film entirely. I didn’t really get the point and it cheapens the film somewhat by making it feel a bit silly.
Overall, Hellbender is a simplistic horror film. That’s not a negative because what it does, it does very well.
The Final Score - 8/10