Monday, October 28, 2013

Movie Review: Hellbenders

So, do you remember how just last week how I said Clifton Collins Jr. had me by the short and curlies? Well, thanks to Hellbenders, he's not only got me by them, but he's started braiding them, coloring them every color of the rainbow and he named them. For the record, the longest one's is name is Larry. It's a long story.

I didn't really know what I was getting into with this movie. I think I remember watching the trailer for it last year and thinking 'Clancy Brown as clergy cussing, that could be right up my ally'. I didn't know or remember my booooiiii Collins was in it until the opening credits, which may have exceeded my somewhat low expectations by about a bajillion, so you might not get a fair and unbiased movie review is what I'm saying. It could devolve into "Eeeee Clifton Collins Jr. with the collar wearing and the cussing and the scenery chewing, Eeeeee!" But I'll try my best to make this movie review a little bit more intelligible.

The premise of the story is unlike anything I've ever heard of for starters. It involves an order of hellbound priests who commit sins in order to take the demons they exorcise back to hell in their bodies if need be. They cuss and booze and sleep around and commit hedonistic acts to ensure they can expel the demons back to hell. This ragtag group is led by the ever awesome Clancy Brown as the lead priest Angus who calls everyone a c*ck sucker and does dastardly deeds to make sure his vessel is ready to go to hell. He's rounded out by the likes of Clifton Collins Jr., as the conflicted smart-ass Lawrence, Andre Royo, as the record keeper who ensures the order is hell ready, Robyn Rikoon as the fierce, defiant Elizabeth, with Macon Blair and Dan Fogler (Ugh) rounding out the cast. The ragtag band of priests starts out with a new problem. A new Pope has to be named, which means a new archbishop will be overseeing them and probably won't like how they run things, what with stripper cakes being brought into the parish, not mention the onslaught of drugs and sex they submit themselves too. On top of all that, there's a new demon billed as the God-slayer who's threatening to overtake the earth.

The movie is billed as a horror/comedy which is not an easy tight rope to walk, and as a straight up comedy, well it didn't exactly fail but it didn't all out work either. It had one or two pieces that fully (hello archbishob walking into a priest doing some unspeakable acts which may or may not have involved gerbils) worked for me, but I think overall, the movie thought the comedy was only to be found in the idea of priests sinning and that's all it went for, which was mirthful, but not outright funny. Overall, I found the most hilarious part was that because they were still priests, they were forced to use public transportation. Watching a bunch of dour priests face battle while sitting on a bus was hilarious to me for whatever reason, but that was about as far as it went.

As a horror, it most definitely did work. The possession of the Character Elizabeth was so haywire and brilliant because it was less about the gore and more about the psychological baiting. The whole scene builds this incredible demon character up from nothing and sets the scene by feeding off of Elizabeth's insecurities and beliefs or lack thereof. It's incredible to watch and nerve wracking and builds to the very end.
The scene at the very beginning, with Clancy Brown and Collins facing off against a possessed rabbi was the one place where I felt both the laughs and freakouts came very naturally and set the tone for the rest of the movie. It's fraught and yet it gave me one of my funniest, laugh out loud moments. Clancy is getting the demon to possess him instead of the rabbi and is about to cut his own throat as the possession takes place and its nerve-wracking to watch, and then suddenly, Collins comes into the scene stage right, smacking the demon upside the head with a bible and yells "King James Motherf*#&#" and I absolutely lose it. In the cage fight between scenery-chewing one-liners that Collins has uttered, this one and "Found a loophole bitch, I oughta be a lawyer!" are duking it our for supremacy, and I have no idea who wins. Repeated viewings of both movies will have to determine the victor. (So much for this devolving into a Collins fan girl post. heh.)

*Spoiler Alert* I will say, that the ending was pretty transparent and I still find it laughable that the movie thought our end times would come about by a giant fiery hell vagina getting fingered as it were, but these are mostly minor quibbles for a movie that builds its mythology, its horror and its laughs very well by the end. And also, for a movie with Dan Fogler in it, it used him very well, which is to say, very, very sparingly  and for laughs. (I'm sorry, but he still owes me for Ball of Fury and I have not come collecting yet).

So overall, its worth the two hours and the rental fee we paid for it. B+

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