Starring Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland
Directed by Bruce McDonald
It’s Halloween in small town America, and sullen 17-year-old Dora Vogel (Rose) has just been informed by her physician, Dr. Henry (Sutherland), that she’s 4 weeks pregnant. Uh oh.
As her mother sets out to take Dora’s younger brother trick or treating, Dora struggles over whether to remain at home and wallow in her predicament, or head out with her boyfriend to a local party. The choice is somewhat made for her, however, by the arrival of a trio of unsettling youngsters at the door… holding a candy sack containing her boyfriend’s head.
From here, Dora enters a supernatural world of terror as the ever-growing gang of murderous youngsters besiege the house in an apparent attempt to relieve her of the baby growing within her.
And then director Bruce McDonald sends Hellions flying off the rails and into a world of almost total incomprehensibility.
Early signs that Dora’s situation is more other-worldly than mere psycho children are effective and spooky – their appearance sees the outside world’s colours become warped, and a vicious storm envelops the inside of the house while Dora desperately tries to call the authorities, and Dr. Henry, for help.
When in survival horror, siege-based mode, Hellions works well. The designs of the murderous children are suitably creepy, including their rasping, guttural voices; and their relentless pursuit of Dora leads to some well crafted set-pieces dishing up tension and brutality in equal measure. Performances during this stage are top-notch from all involved, bringing sympathy to Dora’s situation and seeing Robert Patrick shine in his supporting role as the local sheriff.
Yet, while Hellions starts off well in this vein, an abrupt tactics shift into nightmare logic and visual experimentation almost immediately robs it of all momentum. As the filmmaking becomes more audacious, the pacing slips away to leave a strangely incongruous pairing of flashy visuals with waning narrative interest… all the way to a climax that throws in far too many hallucinatory sequences one after another until a baffling dénouement that barely makes a lick of sense.
Scares and tension are replaced by confusion and exasperation, and the film never manages to recover from it. In an interesting turn, the soundtrack becomes largely composed of the chanting of the titular little monsters – and while a nice touch when it first arrives, it becomes ear-piercingly irritating due to over-play… something which becomes a very familiar feeling for Hellions‘ final stretch and sings a song of terribly missed opportunity.