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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Hellions  (2015)
2½ Stars
Directed by Bruce McDonald.
Cast: Chloe Rose, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson, Robert Patrick, Luke Bilyk, Peter DaCunha, Joe Silvaggio, Emir Hirad Mokhtarieh, Adelaide Humphreys, Stephanie Fonceca, Sydney Cross, Aliyah Jhirad, Nicholas Craig, Devon Phillipson, Karlo William.
2015 – 82 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for violence, gore, language, and some drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, September 15, 2015.
It is a normal Halloween for 17-year-old Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose) until it's suddenly not. A checkup at Dr. Henry's (Rossif Sutherland) office leads to unthinkable news: she's four weeks pregnant. With the realities of adulthood breathing down Dora's neck, she is faced with tough decisions and the scary prospect of telling her mom (Rachel Wilson) and boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk) on the very night when spooky fun and frivolity should be the name of the game. Adding more stress to the situation are the masked trick-or-treaters who come knocking as she readies herself to go out with Jace for the evening. These demonic darlings want far more than candy from Dora, and they're not about to leave until they've claimed her and her unborn child as their own.

A young woman's loss of innocence coincides with a holiday-set nightmare in "Hellions," director Bruce McDonald (2009's "Pontypool") and screenwriter Pascal Trottier's (2013's "The Colony") affectionate ode to All Hallows' Eve. The opening act is its best; McDonald and cinematographer Norayr Kasper's painterly visual eyes bring all the autumnal flavor one would expect from a film revolving around the last night of October. From the pumpkin patch nestled behind Dora's house to the costumed residents and decorations sprinkled throughout the idyllic small town, the picture sets up a sumptuous atmosphere that only grows riskier as Dora's life changes in an instant. Playing someone who is scared and vulnerable and (as teens are sometimes apt to be) a little selfish, Chloe Rose (TV's "Degrassi: The Next Generation") brings a sympathetic honesty to her heroine of Dora. Even as the narrative falls deeper into out-there abstraction, Rose anchors the eccentric goings-on.

If "Hellions" works as a witchy mood piece, the film makes one considerable creative faux pas. As the malevolent pint-sized devils surround Dora's home for a night of fright, director McDonald opts to alter his gorgeous frames with extreme color filters that give everything a spare, washed-out, pinkish tint. This aesthetic choice is not only unnecessary, but so dramatically different from the look of the opening half-hour that it problematically tips its hats at being a dream rather than simply dreamlike. This distinction is key, as it serves to lessen tension due to seemingly no longer existing in a plane of reality. Whether Dora's trying experience is actually happening or a diabolical metaphor is ultimately up for grabs, eventful ambiguity and a playfully unnerving music score by Todor Kobakov and Ian LeFeuvre (with immeasurable assist from the Canadian Children's Opera Company) shrouding the film anew in cloven-footed apprehension. When it comes to the visual scheme of "Hellions," less would have equaled more. There is enough good left to savor, however, to prove more treat than trick.
© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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