PLOT: A ragtag crew of deeply debauched exorcists - dubbed the Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints - bite off far more than they can chew when their latest exorcism threatens to endanger both the human and deistic race.
REVIEW: Low-budget horror epicure J.T. Petty returns to the director's chair 4 years after rolling out the solid horror-western joint THE BURROWERS, this time gifting us with the entertaining if uneven exorcism-farce HELLBENDERS 3D. And you know what? I had a pretty f*ckin' fun time watching this sucker! Is it a great movie? No. A good one? Not particularly. But is it funny? Yeah, I think it is. No doubt, there are some tonal inconsistencies that are hard to reconcile - not to mention some pretty chintzy CG and absolutely UNnecessary 3D - but thanks to a pretty damn hilarious premise and a collection of kick-ass character actors (namely Clancy Brown and Cliff Collins Jr.), this is one hellish romp worth taking!
We first meet the Order's most promising member, Larry (Collins Jr.), hung-over on the street, cracking a brew and heading home to his legion of transgressive brethren. Among this dandy squad are the following: Angus (Clancy Brown), the obstreperous high priest of the bunch...good for tossing back sauce and spouting obscenities. Then there's Elizabeth (Robyn Rikoon), the lone lass of the bunch...often stoned to the gills and being the object of desire for Eric (Dan Fogler), the pessimistic slacker of the crew (and the funniest). We also have Macon (Macon Blair), a gay southern Baptist, and Stephen (Andre Royo), the sober-headed organizer of the bunch. Alone, these troubled souls are without salvation. But together, this hellbound Order of sinners are humanity's only hope against the ever-swelling wave of evil. In particular, an evil Norse demon known as SURTR. Should we entrust our faith in the HELLBENDERS? It's up to you to find out!
The thing I dug most about HELLBENDERS, aside from hysterically original premise, is the comedic interaction of cool character actors we've all been watching for years. I mean, when you have The Kurgan (Brown), Bubbs from "The Wire" (Aroyo) Tack the Cack (Collins Jr.) and the fat dude from BALLS OF FURY (Fogler) all chilling together...yeah, it doesn't take much to conjure a high entertainment value. And to me that's where the film works best, when these heavyweight sinners are all just kicking around the house, trading barbs, snapping bong-loads, blaspheming, and occasionally plotting ways in which to go about fighting evil. Even funnier is when an outsider comes in, some asshole named Clint (Stephen Gevedon) who tries to shut down their parish. You see, Clint's a bible-thumping do-gooder, and doesn't meet the Order's unconventional ways of hedonism and debauchery with anything but hate. Watching him react to the foulness that goes down in the house is pure comedy, in particular the scenes with he and Fogler. Genuine laughs were had, I'm telling you!
Unfortunately, the tonal shifts from light to dark in HELLBENDERS are not very smooth. The funny scenes work well by themselves, but when juxtaposed with the heavier side of the story...including deep exposition regarding scripture and biblical apocalypse...well, it almost feels like two different movies. The transitions don't feel natural or in unison. Moreover, when we do get down to the good and gory, any sense of believability is thrown out the window by the presence of really substandard CGI blood. And it's not even your typical gooey, gory blood we're used to, because the CG blood flows from person to person as a way to signify soul-transference (much like the movie FALLEN). I appreciate the attempt, but here's where the limited resources really hinder the overall experience of the film. My guess is this why Petty chose to convert the film to 3D - to make CG more immersive - but trust me, there's absolutely no reason to see the film in 3D. In fact, I'd recommend peeing it standard 2D.
In the end, HELLBENDERS is a minor B-movie with a handful of genuine laughs. If you're a fan of such a killer ensemble of actors who deserve more shine, then by all means, give this sucker a lick. But make no mistake, this isn't a great flick, or even a very scary one. No, for me the reason to see it is for the dark sense of humor and odd ensemble who gets to play it. Where else will you get to see Clancy Brown screaming "Cocksucker" every other line, or Dan Fogler begging to go down on a girl while constantly wearing driving gloves. Where else will you see a sober Andre Royo or a nose-less Stephen Gevedon? Most likely nowhere. So for that, I say have a little heretical fun with HELLBENDERS when its theaters and VOD October 18th.