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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Hellions  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: February 2, 2016) – It is a normal Halloween for 17-year-old Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose) until it's suddenly not. A checkup at Dr. Henry's (Rossif Sutherland) office leads to unthinkable news: she's four weeks pregnant. With the realities of adulthood breathing down Dora's neck, she is faced with tough decisions and the scary prospect of telling her mom (Rachel Wilson) and boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk) on the very night when spooky fun and frivolity should be the name of the game. Adding more stress to the situation are the masked trick-or-treaters who come knocking as she readies herself to go out with Jace for the evening. These demonic darlings want far more than candy from Dora, and they're not about to leave until they've claimed her and her unborn child as their own.

A young woman's loss of innocence coincides with a holiday-set nightmare in "Hellions," director Bruce McDonald (2009's "Pontypool") and screenwriter Pascal Trottier's (2013's "The Colony") affectionate ode to All Hallows' Eve. The opening act is its best; McDonald and cinematographer Norayr Kasper's painterly visual eyes bring all the autumnal flavor one would expect from a film revolving around the last night of October. From the pumpkin patch nestled behind Dora's house to the costumed residents and decorations sprinkled throughout the idyllic small town, the picture sets up a sumptuous atmosphere that only grows riskier as Dora's life changes in an instant. Playing someone who is scared and vulnerable and (as teens are sometimes apt to be) a little selfish, Chloe Rose (TV's "Degrassi: The Next Generation") brings a sympathetic honesty to her heroine of Dora. Even as the narrative falls deeper into out-there abstraction, Rose anchors the eccentric goings-on.

If "Hellions" works as a witchy mood piece, the film makes one considerable creative faux pas. As the malevolent pint-sized devils surround Dora's home for a night of fright, director McDonald opts to alter his gorgeous frames with extreme color filters that give everything a spare, washed-out, pinkish tint. This aesthetic choice is not only unnecessary, but so dramatically different from the look of the opening half-hour that it problematically tips its hats at being a dream rather than simply dreamlike. This distinction is key, as it serves to lessen tension due to seemingly no longer existing in a plane of reality. Whether Dora's trying experience is actually happening or a diabolical metaphor is ultimately up for grabs, eventful ambiguity and a playfully unnerving music score by Todor Kobakov and Ian LeFeuvre (with immeasurable assist from the Canadian Children's Opera Company) shrouding the film anew in cloven-footed apprehension. When it comes to the visual scheme of "Hellions," less would have equaled more. There is enough good left to savor, however, to prove more treat than trick.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Hellions" has a curious visual sheen—the realistic, autumnal look of the opening half-hour makes way for severe color filtering and a pinkish, dreamlike tint thereafter—but Scream Factory's 1080p transfer handles these aesthetic challenges with aplomb. Detail is top-notch during the first half, while clarity and boldness take over once the image shifts toward the abstract and fantastical. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is crisp and active, making superb use of music and sound effects to give it that moody All Hallows' Eve feel. Dialogue is consistently clear.

Blu-ray Features
  • Trailer (1:48, HD)
Bottom Line
The aesthetic style of "Hellions" will prove divisive for viewers, but there is no disputing the atmosphere director Bruce McDonald conjures as teenage Dora is accosted at home by demonic trick-or-treaters. Scream Factory's Blu-ray release is light on extras, but having this cinematic ode to Halloween on Blu-ray is worth celebrating all by itself. Recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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