Fantasia Review: Hellbender


Of all the genres of film, traditionally horror has been the easiest and cheapest for filmmakers to get into. There’s a much wider potential audience, for one, not to mention the number of specialist companies within the industry. And let’s be honest, it’s going to be much more fun than making say a romantic comedy. It’s not uncommon for it to be a family affair and the Adamses are the most interesting in the business. They seem to get better with every film and Hellbender is no exception.

Deep in the Catskill Mountains, Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives with her mum (Toby Poser) in almost complete isolation. The teenager has a medical condition, or at least that’s what she’s been told, so has never had any outside contact. That changes one day when she stumbles upon Amber (Lulu Adams) and, despite being a vegetarian, ends up swallowing a worm. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities and she discovers a strange new power.

Hellbender plays with witchcraft and the occult to create an enthralling and creepy coming-of-age tale. The camera lingers on the natural world surrounding the two women. It is both their larder and their playground. There’s something intrinsically organic about their film. An ancient evil lurking beneath their feet. As we’ve come to expect, the dialogue flows and the acting is good but it’s the biotic otherworldliness of Hellbender which seeps into your psyche.

Hellbender screens at Fantasia International Film Festival.

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