‘Hellbender’ is a Fresh, Trippy Take on Occult Horror

Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer

Plot: A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.

Review: I’ve never done acid and I don’t listen to heavy metal, but I think if I combined those two things I might end up seeing the kind of visuals found in Hellbender.

Mama, Mama you know I love you (you know I love you)

Directed, written and starring family members John Adams, Zelda Adams and Toby Poser, this passion project came about when Poser, who plays the character simply known as “Mother”, found out she was donor-conceived she imagined her biological father was actually the devil (hey don’t judge, we’ve all have weird thoughts now and again). And so with her husband John directing and her daughter Zelda playing her on-screen daughter Izzy, Hellbender came to life.

The strength of this movie lies with its musical choices and its visuals. Mother and Izzy are the central characters here and as Izzy is home-schooled she and her mom have a very tight-knit bond. They even have their own band with music that I’m sure was written by said family members. The lyrics of the songs tend to play into the story itself which for some might seem a tad confusing. But at its core it’s simply a tale of a mother who doesn’t want her child to make the same mistakes she did. In this case those mistakes are rooted heavily in witchcraft and the supernatural. I don’t want to spoil anything here but like most stories where parents try to keep dark secrets that turn around and bite them in the butt, Hellbender takes the whole witchcraft thing to another level, one that I really enjoyed.

Hey Izzy. I guess I’m a bit early for our date. I can come back. Yeah, I think I’ll come back. See you in a bit *Engine starts up and tyres squeal*

This movie doesn’t play it safe the way most modern day takes on witches and witchcraft do. No, this family swung for the fences with their dream-like horrific landscapes and almost animalistic dynamics that take place between mother and daughter. It’s a movie worth watching again just to take in these scenes but I also found the performance by Poser to be another standout element found here. She reminds me of Andie MacDowell with her somewhat crazy hair and straightforward demeanour. Zelda as Izzy is a bit more stilted in her acting but she does relax into it as the story unfolds, and her awkward nature does lend credibility to her character as she’s homeschooled and doesn’t have any other relationships outside her home.

I think this would make a great double feature to watch with another heavy metal flavoured horror movie, 2015’s The Devil’s Candy. And the surrealism and genuinely refreshing take on witchcraft and malevolent adolescence makes Hellbender worthy of any horror fan’s viewing time. I found out this is the second outing for this family in the horror genre after their 2019 debut, The Deeper You Dig (2020) and after seeing sophomore effort I’ll definitely be checking that out next. And hopefully a lot more from them in the future.

Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out 10

And you can check out more bewitching (Get it? Bewitching? You get it) horror content below:

‘THE WITCH’ IS A HORROR TALE FOR THE AGES
‘PYEWACKET’ IS AN ATMOSPHERIC, SLOW BURN TALE OF GRIEF
‘THE WRETCHED’ IS A SOLID THROWBACK FOR YOUNG AND OLD

2755F829-2EEC-4A68-B6F7-F963F48C9D92 Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.

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