From Justin Hewitt-Drakulic (Language 2014, #VitalSignz 2017) and Alex Lee Williams (The Subterfuge Suite 2012. Hashtag Hypochondriac 2013) comes HELLmington, a new Horror film that allegedly aims to be 2019’s ‘Blair Witch Project.’ A bold expectation in the history of Horror cinema, they even managed to cast cult favorite Michael Ironside (Scanners 1981, Starship Troopers 1997), an actor who is either a solid addition to a good film, or the more entertaining part of a bad film. The question is…where does HELLmington fall on that scale?
Released on DVD and VOD Tuesday, September 10th through Uncork’d Entertainment, it tells the story of Detective Samantha Woodhouse (Nicola Correia-Damude: Shadowhunters series), who is investigating the disappearance of former schoolmate Katie Owens (Angelica Stirpe: Cleverly Disguised 2019). She went missing shortly after her prom in their hometown of Hellmington. There were no traces, evidence or even a body left behind to work with. All that is left are the last words of Samantha’s father Joe (Andre Bussieres: Nikita series, The Auction 2013) referring to Owens herself. Samantha heads back to see if she can find any answers. Though she may end up with more than she bargained for.
For one, HELLmington plays out more like a Jonathan Demme 1991 classic Silence of the Lambs – especially with the woman detective protagonist and missing girl mystery. It follows Samantha as she investigates every nook and cranny in Hellmington, while glimpsing into her own traumas and motivation for taking on the case. All aided by some strong cinematography – emphasizing the drama with some nice cuts to some evocative imagery.
Additionally, the acting is pretty good too. Ironside is as reliable as ever, his character Rupert going between sympathy and irritation as he tries to work with his niece. Gabe Grey (Bomb Girls 2013, Lost Girl series) as eventual partner Detective Khan stands out for his quirks too. Otherwise, the film belongs to Correia-Damude as Samantha, putting forth a complex array of emotions. Like how a stern demeanor can be a reaction to trauma, and how that trauma gets compacted the further the investigation goes on.
Yet it does not really resemble Blair Witch Project all that much. Even some synopses cloud the film’s subject over, talking about the detectives working with ‘documentary filmmakers’ on some ‘found footage’ from ‘Hellmington Asylum.’ They even say Owens was a ‘horror blogger.’ Instead, there are a few occult symbols that turn up in the investigation, and some freaky imagery that bring up some scares- both genuine and of the ‘jump’ variety. But it is not 2019’s Blair Witch Project successor.
What is here is an effective psychological horror, where the scares build up the more the audience learns about the characters and the unfolding investigation. Also, the music is not so great. There is a nice, haunting tune that plays in softer moments, despite its arrangement being very close to one played in YouTube creepypasta videos.
However, the intro theme and action sequence themes are terrible. It aims to build up the film’s grim harshness, only to end up sounding like a broken lawnmower converted into synth tunes. Then there are the two end credits songs. ‘Wild Man’ is an Amy Winehouse-esque track that is not too bad, and probably should have started the credits off. Instead, it follows a scratchy, 1960s-esque ballad with ironic lyrics that would have been more fitting for a comedy horror.
While the music does not harm HELLmington overall, what does hurt it are the misleading synopses and the rushed finale. With some more polish, it really could have been a hidden gem with its drama and acting. Instead, it is more like a gem that turns out to be a cubic zirconia. The film will do the job and showcases a lot of good talent both behind the scenes and in front of the screen. It is just that its flaws become more apparent once it is put next to the big hitters. That is why Cryptic Rock gives HELLmington 3.5 out of 5 stars.