Hellions (2015)

This October 31st set chiller is full of Halloween iconography and atmosphere, but it’s also unfortunately full of something else not nearly as aromatic.

Bruce McDonald’s (“Pontypool,” 2008) latest indie horror opus, “Hellions,” garners such goodwill for Halloween aficionados in the first thirty minutes that it ultimately becomes infuriating to watch the seasoned director slowly squander all of it in the film’s ill-conceived second half. It remains a beautifully shot tribute to the haunting season, however, even when it all but commits narrative suicide.

Enter at risk of your own patience.

Chloe Rose plays 17 year old high school student, Dora Vogel, who discovers at a local health clinic appointment that she’s pregnant on All Hallows’ Eve. Dora rides her bike home through her idyllic hometown, which is filled with some of the most sincere pumpkin patches ever put to film as far as the eye can see. It’s a gorgeous sequence, full of Halloween decorations, fall leaves and heartland ambience.

Resisting the urge to break the news and spoil the holiday for her Halloween enthusiast mother and her younger brother, Dora elects to stay home and hand out treats to the neighborhood tricksters while she broods over her situation. When the sun goes down, the knocks at her door bring a strange breed of trick-or-treaters who don’t seem interested in candy but rather in the baby that’s growing in her stomach at an unnaturally expedited rate.

It’s at this point when the film suddenly changes tone, and not so subtly either. The clocks in the house spin wildly and the film’s cinematography shifts from the colorful fall palate we’ve been enjoying to a sepia hued dream world. An army of homicidal trick-or-treaters that clearly seem influenced by Sam from “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007) surround the house, whispering creepy threats and murdering anybody unfortunate enough to come to Dora’s aid. Local sheriff Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” “The X-Files”) seems to be the only one who can help.

I can appreciate director McDonald’s artier intentions, and the apocalyptic Halloween dreamland presented in the films’ second half is visually interesting, but the endless waking nightmare sequences that follow destroy any suspense that the more grounded first act worked so hard to build. Dora wanders the house and backyard, continually assaulted by nightmare imagery that just as quickly disappears. She suffers grievous wounds that just as quickly heal without explanation.

If nothing that’s happening is real, then there is no real physical danger, and the repeated false nightmare scares and sudden awakenings grow tedious quickly. The story flirts with homages to “Rosemary’s Baby,” but none of it really goes anywhere, and by time the film reaches its frustratingly ambiguous ending, I was pretty sure the director had abandoned any sense of what he intended to say with this film in the hope that his audience would be so confused trying to delineate the boundaries of reality and illusion that they may end up believing that what they’ve experienced is deeper than it really is.

It really isn’t.

The Phantom of The Ville

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