TIFF ’12 WRAP UP: Hellbenders

By Brandon Bastaldo

Hellbenders (2012)

Program: Midnight Madness

Director: J.T. Petty

Starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Clancy Brown, Andre Royo, Robyn Rikoon, Dan Fogler

Hellbendersis a film about demons, drugs, sex and the clergy; it’s pretty much the closest thing to Roman Catholic rock and roll.

Meet the amicably perverted members of the Hellbound Saints of Brooklyn Parish: an order of excommunicated priests whose lives are a trapped in a weed-cloud haze of boozing and profanity- all in the name of the lord that is. If there is ever an exorcism which proves too difficult, their expertise in sin allows them to invite a demon into themselves, and deliver it to hell.

With a plot like this director J.T. Petty puts a bold and clever spin on an exorcism genre which has turned into a bad shaky cam joke. Petty’s  focus on the mischief of the Hellbound saints (Robyn Rikoon, Clifton Collins Jr., Macon Blair, Dan Folger, Andre Royo) and their pedagogue in blasphemy Angus (Clancy Brown) proves too funny to turn away from. Think Ghostbusters, meets Sister Act, meets the Exorcist.

Clifton Collins Jr. in Hellbenders

Angus leads the priests on a last crusade against an ancient Pagan demon who threatens to actually kill God. Frequently posting us in between repulsive demon and priest, Hellbenders brilliantlymakes it hard not to wince in-between laughs.  Lots of blood and guts are to be seen, and it looks as if Petty took a hint from Zombieland’s playfully macabre use of 3D, which proves to quite beguiling here too.

It’s too bad Hellbenders comes to a tame and rather routine climax, and falls flat for a film which shows the talent and appreciation of a director with a fresh vision for an exhausted genre.

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