With the exceptions of Debra Genik and Brian De Palma, I have the feeling that no one has ever done the “my child must be protected from all contact with the outside world, because the outside world is dangerous or something” trope well. Rick and Morty failed at it, The Little Mermaid II failed at it, and ultimately, Hellbender also fails at it.
At least Hellbender has the common sense to use the reveal of why as a midpoint for a somewhat different film, one that is a little more interesting than your run-of-the-mill “the outside is poison story”. Izzy (Zelda Adams) is your young person being held “prisoner” by her mother (Toby Poser), who claims that it is too dangerous for Izzy to go out and meet others because she is “sick”. In actuality, the sickness is genetic, as Izzy is the next in a long line of pagan witches, who gain their powers through the consumption of living beings that are in the process of experiencing fear.
The twist is that Mom is fretfully afraid of where her daughter is going to end up more than she’s afraid of how others are going to react. This is a somewhat unique play on this genre here. At the same time, what this change does is shift the antagonist from Carrie’s Mom to Carrie, which feels slightly unfair.
At the very least, everyone inside the film seems to be on the same page. Adams, Poser, and another Adams who also stars in the film are all listed as writers and directors on the film, which contributes to the DIY feel that the film has. Moreover, it’s aesthetic is pointedly pagan. I just wish something this well-constructed didn’t rely on a trope that I personally hate.
- Release Date: 8/14/2021