Hellbenders 3D (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by J.T. Petty
Distributed by Lionsgate
Think of The Marx Brothers in the priesthood meets James Cameron, and you might have some idea of what Hellbenders 3D is like.
The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints, a multi-denominational Hell’s Kitchen chapter of maverick men of the cloth, is led by Father Angus (Clancy Brown), whose right-hand henchmen (Clifton Collins Jr., Dan Fogler, Andre Royo, Robyn Rikoon and Macon Blair) go head-to-head with demons on a daily basis. Unlike pious priests who serve God and perform saintly acts in keeping with their faith, these guys (and gal) are on a constant regimen of sin. All Seven Deadlies: They curse, drink and smoke, covet, glut – the whole bit – in order to keep in shape for their brimstone battles.
When one of their own is possessed by an omnipresent evildoer known as "The God Killer," the Hellbound Saints have their work cut out for them: They must save mankind from being subverted into bloodthirsty zombies. In the meantime, they’re being audited by a disapproving representative of the archdiocese (Stephen Gevedon), who considers them obsolete and wants to shut them down.
Hellbenders 3D is based on a good idea but unfortunately is poorly executed in a messy, slapsticky, overly self-aware presentation that’s not quite funny enough to be a comedy and not quite gory enough to be horror. Seems to be an epidemic in the genre what with Hellbaby, Odd Thomas, and the like… tonality’s all over the place these days.
Writer-director J.T. Petty, though he’s adapting his own graphic novel here, doesn’t seem quite sure what to do with the rich subject matter or how to corral his large cast of characters into something cohesive. Plus, there’s a random "comic book panel" cartoon shoehorned into the movie for no apparent reason (most folks wouldn’t know – or care – that Hellbenders 3D is based on a graphic novel… this is hardly Watchmen here…).
On the plus side, the actors are fantastic. Brown and Collins, Jr., are especially great together, and you can tell they are really relishing their roles. The 3D is fine, if unnecessary (though in the extra features, it’s revealed that a 3D camera company financed much of the film and that was main impetus for even making it). The evil creatures are cool (in a creepy way), and the makeup and F/X are gross (in a gaudy way).
I was pretty bored by the time the movie ended, but I dutifully delved into the extra features. I’m glad I did. (One note before proceeding to the rest of my review: When I first loaded the Blu-ray into my player, a warning message came up stating that a 3D signal was not detected – I do have a 3D TV and I use the function regularly. I checked it with another disc, and it was fine. Then I switched that out with the Hellbenders 3D disc, and it worked. At any rate, you do not need a 3D TV to watch the film, as there is a 2D option available on the menu.)
The first featurette, put together by Red Shirt Pictures, is standard stuff but well presented. It certainly makes the movie seem more amusing than it actually is. The interview with J.T. Petty is quite interesting, and I learned a lot about how the film came together. He also addresses the long shadow cast by The Exorcist – even on a low-budget comedy like this film, The Exorcist is always in the back of the mind. On-set interviews with the actors were also entertaining. (One can never have too much Clancy Brown!)
"Fly on the Wall" - Behind the scenes of the making of Hellbenders 3D is basically un-narrated B-roll. To me, this is not of much relevance, but at least the editing is snappy (I’ve seen a lot of these B-roll featurettes which drag on and on).
Perhaps the best featurette is the collection of the original exorcism shorts – snippets of which were used in the movie when the production company ran a contest on Bloody-Disgusting – in their entirety. A mixed bag ranging from homemade hi-def to muddy 8mm and everything in between, it’s fun to see the fan films.
There is also a commentary on the Blu-ray.
1 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5