I’m not a huge fan of scary kids movies. (i don’t mean movies for kids that are scary. i like those) I’ve just never really found a 50 pound kid very menacing. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but overall, they’re not my thing. So, when I heard about Hellions, I wasn’t super excited to see it, but I figured I’d check it out eventually. Then I saw some positive responses to it from some trusted folks on Twitter. That piqued my interest a bit. But what really made me want to check it out was the heated debate that those positive responses sparked on whether the film was good or not. Some thought it was a fresh, scary indie gem and others thought it was a diseased turd. Love-it-or-hate-it films are always interesting. That disparity of opinion is what makes horror discourse so fun. You could have the exact opposite opinion of someone and still respect their tastes (even if you do give them shit for it).
Dora is living the ideal teenage life – smoking pot with her no good (according to mom) boyfriend; smearing on too much makeup; wearing combat boots and thigh highs and thrift store clothes; snapping “we can’t all be prom queen like you” at her mom; having unprotected sex that leads to unwanted pregnancy. You know, salad days type stuff. She finds out about her pregnancy on Halloween, the day this town is famous for, with its acres and acres of pumpkin patches. As she waits in her empty house for her boyfriend to come pick her up for a costume party and to tell him he’s a teenage daddy, she is besieged by kids in creepy homemade looking costumes. The kids go from pests/pranksters to murderous… umm – if only there was a word for kids who are unholy terrors.
Hellions would have been a great short film. It has a scary problem at its core – unexpected, unwanted teen pregnancy. And the allegory is clever (if a little ham-fisted) – unexpected, unwanted kids showing up to spoil everyone’s fun. Unfortunately, it’s not a short film (even with its sub-90-minute runtime). A tight 11 minutes would have been plenty to show off its genuinely creepy little costumed kids. Plenty to bring even the slowest viewers around to the “oh, I get it” epiphany about the allegorical story. Plenty of time for some tense moments with a surreal/supernatural edge (but not enough time for that surreality to bore the viewer the way listening to someone recount a nightmare does). Plenty of time for the really cool (though ‘mythologically’ confusing) hellion deaths. Plenty of time for a Robert Patrick cameo (but not enough time for us to be reminded that his best acting is done when he’s playing an emotionless liquid android). There would even be plenty of time for a nightmarish color saturation shift or two (but not enough time for that device to lose its novelty like a Christmas song on repeat). But, alas, Hellions is not 11 minutes long. It’s 69 minutes longer than that.
The Final Cut: Hellions would have made a great short film with its few frightening ideas and interesting kills. Unfortunately, it overstays its welcome and becomes tiresome in its repetition and reliance on surreal nightmare tropes.