I’ll start by saying I’m a sucker for coming of age films and DIY filmmaking. This is the second film from the Adams Family (no pun, for reals) after their exciting debut ‘The Deeper You Dig.’
The film follows a mother and daughter living an isolated life in the woods where they play rock music and get into ritualistic activities. The daughter, played by Zelda Adams to tremendous effect, has been told that she has a rare disease that necessitates her isolation from the world. In true coming of age style, Izzy finds out what her parent has told her isn’t exactly the truth and will spin her into a spiral as she searches to discover who she really is.
The film starts hundreds of years prior as we witness a witch hanging in the woods. It’s a somber look at how things use to be an brings us in full technicolor punk rock goodness as the mother/daughter duo rock out to an incredibly catchy tune together. But as always happens there is a growing shift between the family as the daughter, Izzy’s curiosity begins to expand outside her four walls. This leads to her striking a new friendship with a young woman she meets in the woods and thus sets her on the road to self discovery.
The film might lose viewers with its lush visuals, effects and unique almost psychedelic imagery. They are really swinging for the fences with this one and sometimes the budget is obviously in the way of the pure vision thus we are given some pretty suspect CGI at times. But once you settle in with the tone of the film you’ll find yourself fully absorbed in this tale.
Izzy discovers that she isn’t just an outsider but a ‘Hellbender’ which is some hybrid demon-witch-occult badass whose powers derive from consuming the blood of living beings. Once she discovers who or what she is it’s a helluva ride to the end as she continue to grow more powerful and into her own adulthood.
What makes this DIY effort truly special is the family chemistry and how it doesn’t give a shit how far out there it goes even when the FX work might hold it back. I can only imagine what this family would give us with a real budget.
‘Hellbender’ is for fans of heavy metal witchcraft laden filmmaking that is wholly unique from the ground up. Look for it to hit Shudder in 2022.
Fantastic Fest 2021: ‘Hellbender’ is a Spellbinding Tale Spun by a Family of Evolving Creators