Just say “hell yes” to HELLBENDERS 3D!! Beyond entertaining and filled with laughs, HELLBENDERS 3D is the tale of the most unlikely bunch of exorcists on the planet - The Brooklyn Order of the Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints aka HELLBENDERS. What makes them so special is that beyond their elite exorcism training they do what no others do - live in perpetual debauchery, madness and mayhem, ready to go to Hell on a moment’s notice. After all, what better way to lure the Devil and his minions than with sin?
After being locked away for centuries, the Norse demon Black Surtr has been unleashed on an unsuspecting New York and it’s up to the HELLBENDERS to contain it and send him back to Hell. Led by the perpetually drunken Lutheran minister Angus and aided by his right hand man, Larry and the object of Larry’s affections, Unitarian Elizabeth, joining in the fight are Baptist Macon, Catholic Stephen and Polish Catholic Eric.
When it comes to performances, Clancy Brown and Clifton Collins Jr, as Angus and Larry, respectively, knock it out of the park, approaching the roles with a seriousness and gravitas, giving it their all. It’s that serious approach that fuels the comedic elements of the story. But then you look at Dan Fogler as Father Eric, and it’s obvious he’s approaching the role as nothing by a joke. The imbalance and ambiguity is distracting. However, the meld of actors as a whole is beyond fun, with each providing a distinct and separate function, not to mention level of sin.
Brown is just over the top genius! Robyn Rikoon, with whom I waspreviously unfamiliar, is captivating as Elizabeth, particularly when possessed by Surtr. Of all who become possessed, her stilted zombie-like movements are the most interesting. I am guessing that her theater background served her well in the physical control necessary to play Elizabeth. Laugh-out-loud funny is Andre Royo who, as Father Stephen keeps “sin records” on each of the HELLBENDERS, urging them to “engage in more debauchery, blasphemy, drunkness and sex” when not maintaining enough sin points in a week.
Steven Grevedon's Clint, the spokesman for Opus Dei who wants to shut down HELLBENDERS, feels like a send up of James Coburn's "Mr. Crisp" in SISTER ACT 2 but it works so well here, particularly when the Saints learn that he's with Opus Dei and "not even with the church". Standout is Clifton Collins’ dialogue delivery in scenes with Grevedon as Collins celebrates the scenes with tacit facial and physical expressiveness of disdain and disgust at Clint's antics.
And not to be missed is a “sinful” cameo by one of my fave horror gurus, Larry Fessenden. The minute you see Fessenden among the cast, you know there will be some horrific over-the-top hijinks! And here, he doesn’t disappoint.
A decadent delight of a premise, HELLBENDERS 3D makes perfect sense. What better way to attract evil than to perpetuate sin? Unfortunately, after a delicious first act, writer/director JT Petty never quite fulfills the promise of the idea nor the talents of his cast, falling into a sense of the film unable to decide whether it wants to be taken seriously or as a satire of itself. It even feels as if Petty held back with the subject matter. But, as for the overall story and details themselves - such blasphemy!! It's all so hot, it's cool. Showing no preferential treatment, Petty has something for all the Christian religions out there - as well as Judaism! Hell apparently doesn't play favorites and to have his own team of "Hellbound Avengers" that encompasses all whom believe in Christ, well, just tells me that Petty is one equal opportunity offender, er, tither, er, acolyte! The religious mythology with rites, seven deadly sins, the Bible, history of gods, demons and monsters, etc., Petty insures that the devil is in the details!
Visuals are fantastic, both from a lighting and lensing aspect and the SVFX explodes. Super-saturated, enticing. It’s hard to top a core of flames at the gate to hell that looks like a vagina. It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that director Jim Mickle's partner in crime, Ryan Samul, is the cinematographer her. Samul has a way with light and color that is immersive and emotionally captivating.
Disappointing is some of the pacing as the film loses momentum on more than one occasion, feeling like Petty was struggling to fill in time or a story gap.
In theatres and VOD now, we’re all goin' to hell with the hellbound HELLBENDERS.....
Written and Directed by JT Petty
Cast: Clancy Brown, Clifton Collins, Jr., Robyn Rikoon, Macon Blair, Andre Royo,
Dan Fogler, Larry Fessenden
genre - horror/comedy