REVIEW: Hellbender (2021)

dir. John Adams, Zelda Adams & Toby Poser

A mother and her daughter Izzy (played by directors Proser and Zelda Adams respectively) live out in the woods, keeping to themselves. But as Izzy grows up she becomes aware that there is something more to her family: they have a power that is intoxicating but also, potentially, dangerous.

Coming from a trio of directors who take on a remarkable number of roles, both in front of and behind the camera, the result is genuinely exciting and invigorating. Part teen coming-of-age drama, part occult horror and part something altogether more complicated, this is a work of maturity and thematic weight, capable of being a light comedy and a dark, frightening watch, even within the same scene.

From the opening moments there is a unique quality, Adams and Poser bringing warmth and complexity  to their roles with their chemistry adding rich layers. Here there are no two-dimensional characters, no true saints or sinners, the narrative charting new territory on genre terrain. The result is propulsive, meditative and compelling, with Hellbender ranking amongst the finest indie horrors of recent years.


Russell Bailey

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