At first the trick-or-treaters are fun. We jump out of our chair with each successive knock on the door, greet each costumed kid with a big smile, and basically play along as Halloween traditions dictate we should. But after a while the process becomes a little bit tiresome, those costumed kids start to seem sort of annoying, and we end up wishing we had something better to do on Halloween night than just toss candy at little kids. And now, finally, there is Hellions, a horror film tailor-made for the people who find themselves at home (alone, of course) on Halloween Night.
Our central character, Dora, is a lovely yet highly unhappy 17-year-old girl who is having one bad Halloween: first she learns that she’s pregnant, which seems pretty terrifying in and of itself, and then realizes that she has to spend the entire evening alone. With her mom and her little brother out enjoying standard Halloween traditions (and her boyfriend suddenly missing), Dora settles in for a lonely night doling out candy to the local trick-or-treaters. And then some sort of hell breaks loose.
Turns out that one tenacious little flock of trick-or-treaters is actually a pack of ferocious demons who desperately want to get their talons on Dora’s unborn child. Yikes. Thus begins a nifty, creepy, and occasionally bizarre “all in one night” horror story that strikes an appealing balance between conventional horror tropes and eerie, hallucinatory weirdness. Director Bruce McDonald (Pontypool) seems fully intent on keeping the viewer off-balance as he alternates between somewhat standard scare scenes and Dora’s unsettling inner turmoil. And just when things start to get a bit too artsy and weird, the always colorful Robert Patrick pops up to dish out a little energy and bunch of plot exposition. Also the creature/costume effects are really quite cool.
Although Hellions is probably at its best when it’s dispensing shocks, scares, splatter, and suspense, it also earns extra credit for its slyly clever screenplay. Of course the tiny demons who invade Dora’s house represent her fears in relation to sexuality, maturity, and responsibility — but it’s how our unhappy heroine learns to deal with them that makes Hellions so disconcertingly effective. Lead actress Chloe Rose is pretty great, whether she’s moping about her domestic problems, dealing with a potentially untrustworthy doctor (Rossif Sutherland), or fighting back against several diminutive yet highly aggressive monsters from Hell.
In many ways Hellions feels like a 25-minute short that was stretched out just far enough to qualify as a feature, but between the basic “home invasion” set-up, the enjoyably creepy “mini demons” hook, and a moody, gloomy atmosphere that will certainly play well during the Halloween season, there’s more than enough good stuff here to warrant a look.
4 childlike yet obviously evil burritos out of 5
Screened via the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival.