Hellions marks the return to horror for Pontypool director Bruce McDonald, as he tackles the home invasion genre with a Halloween twist. Driven by haunting visuals and an unsettling atmosphere, Hellions is creepy little treat that’s both totally weird and plenty disturbing. In it, a teenager must survive a Halloween night from Hell when malevolent trick-or-treaters come knocking at her door.
Hellions is very much a Halloween movie, capturing the essence of the fall season with bright colors, costumes and the unshakable sense of something lurking in the shadows—in that regard, McDonald’s latest is a total success (it practically bleeds Halloween). He then drops an unfortunate soul right into the middle of it and creates a nightmare around her—poor Dora will never be the same, that’s for sure.
The film starts with Dora finding out that she’s pregnant, a scary thing for a teenager no doubt, who finds herself home alone on Halloween night. Yikes. And knowing that this is a horror movie and shit will inevitably hit the fan, it’s an unbearably tense few minutes before that trick-or-treater’s first knock at the door—and this is where Hellions really goes to work. The film quickly becomes an otherworldly nightmare as Dora is tormented by one trick-or-treater after another, each with their own uniquely horrifying costume. And this is what the film does very well, it creates a different world within the walls of Dora’s home and tears it apart.
The main issue I had with it, however, was that McDonald chose to depict Dora’s Halloween nightmare by washing out all the colors (watch the trailer and you’ll see what I mean), which I assume was supposed to differentiate the real world against the hellish one. The problem was that the color change was a massive distraction that took away from everything the beginning of the movie so brilliantly established. The film starts with the bright colors of fall and orange pumpkins bleeding into a scene, creating a real sense of Halloween. All of that is lost the moment the color palette changes, doing more harm than good.
As far as the film goes, man does this one hit pretty hard when it wants to. There are some brutally disturbing scenes here and there, sprinkled with some wonderfully creepy little kids in costumes made of pure nightmare fuel; there’s even a nice little nod to the awesome mirror scene in Evil Dead II. It’s a very unique take on the increasingly popular home invasion genre, so for that it does a great job of depicting a sense of dread in a place where you’re suppose to feel safe. Unfortunately, that’s as far as Hellions gets before it becomes incoherent and lost in its own story.
The film is all build up with absolutely no pay off. It’s creepy, has a fantastic lead and takes a familiar genre in a new direction, but it does nothing with it. McDonald creates this strange little world that begs to be explored, yet we never learn anything about it… especially Dora and her ultimate arc. It doesn’t feel like a complete story, which is a damn shame because everything leading up to it was great.
I will say this, though—the film is very much worth a look, especially for the Halloween season, because its unlike anything we’ve seen this year. It’s plenty creepy with stunning imagery that has a way of crawling right under your skin, and it all comes together under the cold chill of Halloween.