Hellbender – Fantasia 2021


Hellbender – Fantasia 2021

A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.

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A teenager isolated from the world by her mother discovers her family's ties to witchcraft in . Since she was 5 years old, Izzy () has lived an isolated life in the Catskill Mountains with her mother (), whom she regularly jams with as part of their rock duo H6LLB6ND6R. However, Izzy begins to question her isolated existence when she comes across a hiker (), who makes mention of his niece Amber (), who lives nearby. Izzy strikes up a friendship with Amber, but in doing so learns that the true reasons she has been isolated from the world are her family's power ties to witchcraft.

Hellbender is a coming-of-age occult horror film from the mother/father/daughter filmmaking family of Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams (The Deeper You Dig). The film stars Zelda Adams and Toby Poser as teenage protagonist Izzy and her unnamed mother, the latter of whom is shown early on to be quite adept a witchcraft when she is not sporting corpse paint and having jam sessions with her daughter. Initially believing herself to have some sort of sickness, Izzy soon learns that she and her mother are actually Hellbenders, described at one point as being a mix of a witch, demon, and an apex predator. Gaining strength from devouring living creatures, Izzy's power quickly grows, making her mother more worried each day.

Hellbender can almost be described as a horror film with a musical element, as the film features many performances by the titular mother/daughter rock band, with Izzy's lyrics getting progressively darker. The film can almost be seen in a similar vein to a film like Ginger Snaps, as Izzy's growing power can be seen as a metaphor for the changes women go through in adolescence. Then there is the real mother/daughter chemistry between Toby Poser and Zelda Adams, which pays off big time in the film's dark climax.

Hellbender is streaming as part of the virtual 2021 Fantasia Film Festival

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.