Directed by J.T. Petty
After disturbing viewers with his film S&Man and wowing audiences with his superior Cowboys and Aliens film, The Burrowers, TIFF veteran J.T. Petty debuted his latest inimitable horror film to an eager Midnight Madness crowd.
The film sets its crass and vulgar tone right from the get-go as viewers are introduced to the anti-protagonist Larry (Collins, Jr.) and his fellow group of debauched priests named the Hellbound Saints, who perform unconventional exorcisms. These priests are not interested in gaining plenary indulgences as their job includes committing immoral sins every day (such as drinking, doing drugs, stealing and lewd sexual acts) in the hopes that if a demon does possess them, they will be able to commit suicide and drag the beast to hell with them.
The dysfunctional martyrs are “guided” by Father Angus (Brown), a man who utters the word “cocksucker” more times than Al Swearengen in "Deadwood" and is hellbent (so to speak) on making sure the Saints fulfill their daily quota of sins in between their exorcism runs.
When one of their own gets possessed by a demon who wants to take over the world and is too weak to take her own life, Larry and the rest of the Saints embark on a journey to stop the demon and to save Elizabeth (Rikoon) despite orders to desist from the Church. What follows are scenes of heavy-drinking, eye-gauging, inappropriate hilarity and 3D-enriched shots of a flaming vulva.
Director Petty has never shied away from showing his side of ingenuity, and his latest project Hellbenders proves to be no exception for the film is probably the most successful attempt at a horror-comedy about demonic possession that has ever been made.
There will be many people who will not care for the offensive humor, the fourth wall interruptions and the moments the film pokes fun of rampant yonic imagery being shown in horror and science fiction films, but those viewers who are fans of the director’s prior films will definitely enjoy the popcorn movie for what it is, rather than what it should be.
Aside from the flaming vulva and an alluring shot of a joint that will tempt the pothead crowd, the 3D effects in the film do not really add much to the aesthetics, scares or overall feel of the film. Like most 3D theatrical films, Hellbenders will probably be more entertaining in regular 2D.
Overall Hellbenders may be flawed, but it is also a valiant effort from Petty and the supporting cast. It is a perfect midnight movie that is best viewed with a non-judgmental crowd who won’t feel the need to repent for their sins after watching it.
4 out of 5