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Hellbenders (2012)

Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/18/2014

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/18/2014

Was the first story ever told about religion? I don't know about that, but I know that most of them since then have touched on religion in some way. And from the very beginning, horror movies have brought in religious ideas. If you don't understand the God components of 1931's Frankenstein, then you weren't paying attention. Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen ushered in a new kind of movie which had religious notions, but were also easily perceived as being sac religious. Since then, we’ve seen many movies which incorporate these concepts and it seems that at least once a year, there’s a movie which is something that the church should simultaneously love and hate. Hellbenders wants to continue that tradition, but it proves that throwing around religious ideas won’t guarantee an appealing movie.

Hellbenders focuses on The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints, a secret group within the Catholic Church. This group is made up of clergy who are called upon to deal with possessions. They intentionally lead lives of sin so that when confronted with a possession, they can call the demon into themselves, commit suicide and take the demon back to hell. This group is lead by Angus (Clancy Brown), but as he's very distracted by research, Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) usually heads things. The other members -- Stephen (Andre Royo), Elizabeth (Robyn Rikoon), Macon (Macon Blair), and Eric (Dan Fogler) -- rack up sins while waiting for a call from the Bishop. While investigating a seemingly simple case, they learn that a demon called Surtr has come to New York City to wreak havoc. Just as the church is pulling their support of the group, the Saints must band together and find a way to stop the demon.

In the extra features found on the Hellbenders disc, Writer/Director J.T. Petty reveals that while watching movies like The Exorcist, he came up with the concept of priests who were trained/prepared to go to hell in order to take demons with them. This is an interesting concept and it certainly puts a new spin (no pun intended) on the "Take me instead!" scene found in many of these movies.

Unfortunately, Petty didn't have any other ideas when he wrote the script and the film is a huge mess. The movie gets off to a rocky start and never recovers due to the fact that none of the characters are the least bit appealing. The notion of clergy who sin has potential, but why did they all have to be repulsive jerks? The only one who is not completely annoying is Stephen and he comes across as a stereotypical "nervous Nellie" type. Are the scenes of the group swearing and talking about sex supposed to be funny? Because they aren't -- they simply limit any chance of the audience feeling anything for these people.

The rest of the plot is lifted directly from Ghostbusters. Now, if you're going to steal, steal from the best, but this just comes across as lazy. When Clint (Stephen Gevedon) arrives to audit the group, it doesn't take a soothsayer to guess that he's going to try and shut them down. All of this in the midst of a seemingly routine possession which puts all of New York in danger. Does this sound familiar? The finale is decidedly low-rent and lacks any creativity.

Petty has shown promise in the past with his films The Burrowers and S&Man, both of which attempted to do something different, but fell short. Hellbenders has a similar outcome, but it seems far less inspired. Perhaps Petty needs to work with a co-writer who can flesh out his ideas and add some three-dimensional characters. As it stands, Hellbenders wants to be a raucous horror movie when some funny moments, but the whole affair fails ensnare the viewer, making me wonder if watching this movie was payment for some sin I had committed.

Hellbenders offends everyone and then some on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The image is somewhat dark at times, and the colors aren’t very bold. The level of detail, as noted by the fact that he can see every line in Clancy Brown’s face, but the picture is somewhat flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, as we can hear sounds coming from off-screen. The action sequences produce impressive surround sound and we get a few detailed sounds from the rear channels. The subwoofer accents the demonic action. The Disc also includes the 3D version of the film which has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the MVC 1080p HD transfer runs at an average of 30/15 Mbps. The image has a nice sense of depth and there is a very clear separation between the foreground and background. Thought clearly went into placing objects in the foreground. However, the darker scenes, especially the finale, look flat.

The Hellbenders Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director J.T. Petty and Clancy Brown and Andre Royo. "God's Dirty Work: The Making of Hellbenders" (26 minutes) focuses on Petty as he discusses the origin of the story and his influences, the characters and actors, and the production. We then hear from the actors who talk about their characters and the themes. "'Fly on the Wall' Behind-the-Scenes Footage" (7 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like, as it takes us on-set to see the cast and crew at work. "Original 'Exorcism' Short Films" (28 minutes) shows the eight winning entries of a contest which was held to create footage for the film showing examples of how evil was spreading through the region. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long