Decent Halloween-themed movies are hard to come by. Aside from the classics like Halloween, Trick ‘r’ Treat and Hocus Pocus, there isn’t much in the way of modern holiday-themed fare for horror fans to sink their plastic fangs into, which is strange considering our lifelong commitment to the spookiest night of the year.
The thrilling, brilliantly-conceived Tales Of Halloween is set to change that in a big way and Hellions, a Canadian production from Pontypool director Bruce Mc Donald, would make a nice companion piece to it, if you’re in the mood for something a bit more serious. By putting the holiday season front and centre, it celebrates the time of year, while also doing something different and, crucially, scary with it.
Our heroine is Dora (charming, Degrassi alum Chloe Rose), a moody teenager who finds her Halloween plans scuppered when she learns that she is pregnant. After initially deciding to spend the night moping around the house, she bids her mother and brother adieu as they set off trick ‘r’ treating and resigns herself to the sofa.
She soon changes her mind, however, and decides to go out anyway, but finds it strangely difficult to get ahold of her boyfriend. And, as the hours crawl by, she is left waiting alone in her costume, at the mercy of weird cravings, as creepy kids continuously ring the doorbell, looking for treats (or tricks).
The setup might sound a bit dull, but if you’ve caught any of the promotional materials for Hellions, you’ll know the flick has a Sam-esque villain up its tattered sleeve. In fact, it has several as the villains of the piece are, basically, a horde of evil trick-or-treaters.
Clad in grungy, torn costumes and with dirty fingernails clasping curiously sopping sacks, they gradually gather around Dora’s house until she’s trapped inside, with virtually no way out.
Rather than cutesy, candy-scoffing little tykes, these are ominously quiet, imposingly still creepers who lurk and stare and wait patiently for their prey to make a mistake upon which they can swiftly capitalise.
Horror fans know not to underestimate the fear factor that can be generated by a creepy kid but Hellions boasts a particularly nasty variety. They’re a bit like Lock, Stock and Barrel except much more horrid (although one of them bears more than a passing resemblance to Deadmau5, thanks to his choice of costume).
In a film loaded with striking imagery, they’re responsible for some of the most memorable moments. There’s something extremely off-putting about a load of little kids in Halloween costumes swarming around, especially when their intentions aren’t clear from the outset.
They’re like mini Michael Myerses, but even creepier. Thankfully, though, the movie doesn’t descend into slasher madness, instead taking a swift turn about halfway through into trippy, surrealist territory to the point that even the colour scheme gets murkier.
Dora is given quite a lot to contend with over this one Halloween night, including almost-drowning in an outhouse filled with blood, and legging it over a literal minefield of exploding pumpkins. McDonald leaves whether it’s all in her head or not ambiguous, which adds to the movie’s weird feel.
Halloween seeps through everything, bleeding into the corners of the frame as the creepy nursery rhyme-style theme churns along in the background. Much like The Guest, which featured the spooky season heavily, decorations hang in every available tree limb and everyone in town seems to be in on the act.
Hellions is wickedly good fun, and it boasts some of the most striking imagery I’ve seen in a horror movie in a long time. Rose is terrific as the ballsy lead, especially considering she’s the only one on-screen (besides the titular children) for most of the movie’s running time.
It’s gory, scary and exciting with a few art-house touches that elevate it above the standard fare. Taken as a metaphor for unwanted/teenage pregnancies, Hellions could be seen as a super-dark PSA. Thankfully, when it comes down to it, McDonald and screenwriter Pascal Trottier have no interest in making any kind of grand, moral statements.
Hellions is first and foremost a horror movie, and a bloody good one at that. In fact, it’s a bit like what Cherry Tree wanted to be but couldn’t quite manage thanks to its witches coven angle and strangely serious tone. This is more like a modern take on Rosemary’s Baby, but with a twist.
Canadian horror is enjoying a bit of a moment right now thanks to Turbo Kid, Hellions and the upcoming A Christmas Horror Story (for which Trottier also has a writing credit).
In most cases, these movies aren’t wildly different from their American, or European, counterparts. They just have something interesting to say, something that doesn’t rely on everything that’s come before. They’re just inventive enough to catch our attention and hold it. They try.
Hellions tries, and succeeds, to subvert our expectations at every turn, making it one of the coolest and most interesting genre offerings of the year.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Bruce Mc Donald
Writer(s): Pascal Trottier
Stars: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson
Studio/ Production Co: Storyteller Pictures
Length: 80 minutes