Hey, where’s Catseye, Empath, and Jetstream?

Director Bruce McDonald has been in the filmmaking biz since the early ’80s, doing a variety of work in both film and TV. He’s been on a horror streak lately, first with the creepy and claustrophobic Pontypool, and now with a teen-based shocker, Hellions.

Teenage Dora (Chloe Rose, Degrassi: The Next Generation) just learned she’s pregnant. Alone on Halloween night, she’s stuck handing out candy to the trick or treaters. Except these are no ordinary children. These little kids in their monstrous masks have taken an odd interest in Chloe, and the world transforms around them as they pursue her.

You might think that “pregnant girl terrorized by creepy little kids” might be a bit too on-the-nose of a metaphor. Then, once you see that Dora’s Halloween costume is an angel, it becomes more on the nose. Pregnancy and horror movies have always been bedfellows, with killers and ghouls standing in for the fears and anxieties of bringing a little diaper-wearer into the world. In Hellions, it’s more text than subtext. Pregnancy fears are front and center, so much so that the entire plot revolves around Dora’s unborn.

Although the monstrous kids in their freaky masks are all over the movie’s marketing, they’re just one part of what Dora faces on this eventful Halloween night. Early in the film, Dora steps outside to find that reality has changed, and she’s now in some dreamlike otherworld. It’s kind of like how Phantasm is about a murdering mortician, except that it’s part of a bigger plot with visits to another planet. As the night progresses, Dora finds herself in increasingly trippy dream-states. This is fine in a horror/fantasy sense, but the filmmakers have chosen to depict this otherworld by making everything pink. When outside, we’ve got pink filters on the camera for a monochrome (monopink?) look, and when inside we’ve got pink lights pouring through all the windows. Everything…is…pink. It looks kind of interesting in a music video sort of way, but it gets really hard on the eyes after a while.

As the movie gets more and more otherworldly, the filmmakers strive for a real “head trip” experience, with fast edits, outlandish shock-value visuals, and full-on randomness. Traveling this far deep into weirdsville is a risky move. As events get more dream sequence-ish, we’re in danger of losing the emotional core of what Dora is going through. Whether that happens will likely depend on what each viewer brings to the experience, but it’s risky nonetheless.

Chloe Rose isn’t given much of a character to play as Dora, but she throws herself into the part, screaming and crying and eventually growing strong in the grand tradition of horror final girls. Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) shows up as a cop and Rossif Sutherland (Reign) plays Dora’s doctor, both of whom get caught up in the supernatural shenanigans. They’re good, but this is Chloe Rose’s show with her front and center in almost every scene.

Determining the Blu-ray’s visual quality is a little tricky on account of how everything is freakin’ pink, but there is a lot of clarity and detail to be found. The 5.1 track is similarly good, with clean dialogue and score. A trailer is the only extra.

This one’s a tough call. Hellions has some good ideas and performances at its center, but there are a lot of flaws that bring it down. It’s not the best movie, but it is interesting.

verdict

Part trick, part treat.

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