31 Days of Halloween: Day 31 – Hellbenders

A movie review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

This Schlocktober, Comics Bulletin has been exploring the world of horror cinema, featuring thirty one notable films released between Halloween 2012 and Halloween 2013. We conclude with director/writer J.T. Petty's Hellbenders.

I first encountered the film work of J.T. Petty with his horror western The Burrowers (2008) toward the end of 2010. It was pretty damned cool and starred Clancy Brown, so right there you knew it was going to be special. It was true to the western setting, while also providing a serious horror element that was both disturbing and original. With that under my belt, I checked out S&Man (2006), a pseudo-documentary examining the subculture of horror fetish films. Pseudo-documentary is a bit of a misnomer, though, because there is a serious documentary element to the film as Petty interviews indie horror filmmakers and horror experts before sliding over into fiction.

All in all, it's a very effective film, and led me to go back further and check out his earlier foray into horror sequels, Mimic 3: Sentinel (2003). And you know what? It's not half bad either thanks to taking a Rear Window approach to the story and getting both Lance Henriksen and Amanda Plummer to appear. I haven't had a chance to check out his debut, Soft for Digging, yet but it's in my Netflix queue and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

So when I heard that his next film was going to be a horror-comedy starring Clifton Collins Jr. and Clancy Brown (along with Andre Royo and Dan Fogler), I was on-board before I even knew what it was about. With a cast like that, it's a no-brainer. You just have to watch it. And if I had known then what I know now, I don't think I'd have been able to wait for the VOD release date of October 18 of Hellbenders.

Sorry. Hellbenders 3D!!!

Let me just say up front that this movie is not for everybody. It follows the adventures of a special team of multi-denominational ministers, The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints, who live in a constant state of sin and debauchery. The reason? If, during an exorcism, they encounter a demon so powerful that there's no other option, they can invite the demon into themselves and then commit suicide, sure in the knowledge that they are already damned and can drag the demon back to hell with them.

It's sort of a nuclear option.

And Petty's script does a good job of moving back and forth from over-the-top vulgarity, blasphemy, and obscenity to the over-the-top horror, violence, and gore. Sometimes the transitions from one mood to another aren't as smooth as they could be, but that's not a deal-breaker. It's funny. It's horrifying. It's unrepentantly low-brow. If I didn't know Petty had written and directed Hellbenders 3D, I could have been persuaded that American Icon Don Coscarelli had had a hand in it.

This is a film that would be a fantastic double-bill with Bubba Ho-Tep or John Dies at the End, and that's about as good as it gets, in my book.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.

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