Hellbenders Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Koch Media
Written and Directed by J.T. Petty
2012, 85 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 23rd June 2014
Clifton Collins Jr. as Lawrence
Clancy Brown as Angus
Andre Royo as Stephen
Robyn Rikoon as Elizabeth
A group of disgraced Catholic priests live a life of utter debauchery, their aim to be so sinful that they’re guaranteed entry to Hell. There’s method to the madness though – exorcists by trade, they plan to commit suicide once possessed by the demons they fight, thereby dragging them both to Hell. Sure, 'Hellbenders' sounds like gay biker porn, but it’s really not.
Hellbenders is a fantastic oddity, playing like a cross between The Exorcist, Ghostbusters and Father Ted. It’s delightfully debauched; its potty-mouthed script backed up by a strong cast and fun action sequences. Clancy Brown is the group’s leader, playing Father Jack-alike exorcist Angus. His disciples consist of Clifton Collins Jr. as sympathetic Lawrence, Dan Fogler as grubby Eric, Robyn Rikoon as token female – and love interest – Elizabeth, and Andre Royo as the (relatively) sensible one. Together they are the Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints – The Hellbenders.
Adapting his own comic book and screenplay, J.T. Petty does a fine job with the direction. It’s too dark at times, and could use a little Sam Raimi-esque flair, but it’s good work for a man primarily known for writing terrible Batman videogames and straight to DVD horror sequels. Any flaws in the story department are forgiven for its sense of fun and devil-may-care attitude towards the scripting and action. The cast do a great job with the filthy script – particularly Brown, Collins Jr. and Royo, all of whom are in it far more than you’d expect from a film with such a low budget. Brown isn’t as big a name as the likes of Trejo or Henriksen, but at least he knows how to stick with a film through to the end. Dan Fogler gets the majority of the laughs, but everyone in the cast gets a moment to shine – most notably during a punch up between the Hellbenders and the authorities attempting to disband them.
Like the Hellbound Saints themselves, Hellbenders is shabby, dirty and occasionally even incompetent. But – also like the Hellbound Saints – it’s strangely loveable, even as it makes you want to throw up in your mouth a little. At times, it all gets too much – particularly during the messy finale – but it’s still far more well done than the likes of Machete or the majority of its wannabe Grindhouse imitators. It has character, which counts for a lot.
A crude horror comedy which wears its comic book origins firmly on its sleeve, Hellbenders is unrepentantly fun.