Witches are in Season With the New Horror Film "Hellbender"
Hellbender is a 2022 film directed by John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser, and they deliver quite the tale. When it was believed every interpretation of witches had already been told, along comes Hellbender.
Witches and History
Witches are one of the most recognizable characters in horror. The history of horror would be wildly inaccurate without their mention. Their tales are as old as antiquity and inseparable from the historic fabric.
1635 is one of the darkest historical periods. This period predates the Salem Witch Trials. According to the New England Historical Society, Plymouth Colony made it a crime to form a solemn compact with the devil by way of witchcraft. Those found guilty succumbed to a most gruesome fate, so there is more than enough rationale for years of horrific yarns.
Witches and Hollywood
Hollywood has been retelling the tales of the most misunderstood and fearsome collectives in society as far back as 1958 with the feature Bell, Book, and Candle. Over time the characterization of witches has evolved. Hellbender is another evolvement of the depiction.
While a film about witches, Hellbender is more so a coming-of-age story. The film explores subplots of discovery, family ties, maturation, and choice. This makes perfect sense. A source notes the idea came from Toby Poser learning that she was donor-conceived and she imagined what if her biological father was the devil.
In this film, mother and daughter are the nuclei. This film encapsulates their place in this world as witches or, more specifically, Hellbenders. However, if one were to remove the central element of witchcraft, the underlying story is quite common. A parent wants better for their offspring. Nevertheless, the progeny must come into their own. The choice is always left in the hands of the wielder. Before the end credits, the mother begins to understand this lesson well.
The film is highbrow in its artistry. There is an abstract nature to this film. Depending on the viewer, it could be beautiful or fall flat. There are few characters in the movie, so it’s minimalistic. Most of the scenes occur between the mother and daughter in one setting. So the focus is on how the two relate to their fate as Hellbenders and each other. With a minimalist cast, it becomes more challenging to retain the attention of the audience especially given the movement of the film.
Hellbender is not a high-energy movie. Instead, Hellbender moves slowly and is almost cerebral. However, the two primary characters carry the entire film masterfully, explaining Zelda Adams’s recognition. In 2021 Adams won best acting at the Mar Del Plata Film Festival.
Leaning in For More
There is much to digest in the film. Hellbender has a heavy link to metal as it serves as the link that connects the mother and daughter. Fascinatingly there is also a link between the movie and a band by the same name. The imagery is loud and looming. At times the imagery can be brutal to watch. However, it is not dissociated from the film’s significance.
Hellbender offers a fresh perspective on witches and uses the creative design to drive home classic truths. Hellbender is worthy of a watch if for nothing more than its originality. If you have time for a bewitching tale of witches, Hellbender can be found streaming on Shudder.
Hellbender (2022) Official Shudder Trailer