Shudder’s ‘Hellbender’ Review – A thrilling coming-of-age horror film

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master of hell is now streaming on Shudder. Read on for our review.

The Adams family does the kind of pioneering do-it-yourself work that most low-budget indie filmmakers can only dream of. The trio – consisting of John Adams, Toby Pose and their daughter Zelda Adams – write and direct all their films in collaboration. They also act as editor, cinematographer, DP, costume designer, music composer and producer. The family is truly a one-stop-shop for film production.

None of this would matter if the movies weren’t good, but they’re impressive enough. Their latest, master of hellis an exciting new addition to the “awful female coming-of-age” subgenre and bears more than a few similarities to Julia Ducournau. Raw.

The film follows a mother/daughter couple who lead a solitary life on an isolated mountain. Izzy’s (Zelda Adams) relationship with her mother (Tobey Poser) is loving and easy going. they have their own rock band (H6LLB6ND6R)they are vegetarians who live on the flora of the woods and their life is relatively peaceful.

Yet there is something wrong with the way Mother refuses to allow Izzy to come to town with her, or the way the road to their property is marked off with a warning sign. And when Mother ventures into town for supplies, she is recognized by an elderly man who swears she is much older than she looks.

Soon, a chance encounter between Izzy and a lost stranger (John Adams) in the woods sets the plot in motion. While Mother makes sure the man won’t talk, Izzy clings to a flippant remark he made and, for the first time, ventures onto a neighbor’s property. There she meets a teenage girl named Amber (Lulu AdamsZelda’s sister) who, despite Izzy’s immunocompromised state and slight awkwardness from homeschooling, befriends her and encourages Izzy to come out of her shell.

However, it quickly becomes clear why Mother is keeping a close eye on Izzy. Hellbender is more than the name of their group: it is also a description of What mother and daughter are. It’s never confirmed, but the words witch and demon are both references (and the film’s fixation on blood as a powerful and captivating elixir offers another potential read). Regardless of how women identify, once Izzy’s power is unlocked, all hell breaks loose.

master of hellThe story of is more accessible than The deeper you dig, the surreal Adams film that rocked 2019’s Fantastic Fest. Despite this, they retained the same mind-bending visual aesthetic, evident in the dreamlike visions Izzy and Mother experience when they touch a mysterious book. These visions of the future are full of fiery, smoky, melting imagery, captured in a fast-paced music video-style edit.

Similarly, when the women perform their occult spells in the woods, the camera adopts a blurred iris lens to evoke the perspective of objects floating in the sky. This coincides with the theme of voyeurism baked into master of hellThe premise of: Mother is watching Izzy, Izzy is watching Amber, and anyone who unexpectedly sets eyes on the women in the woods runs the risk of becoming ash.

While the film’s laid-back mythology may seem unfinished or deliberately opaque, it also encourages viewers to develop their own explanations and stories. This is especially true of the opening sequence, which visually evokes a witch trial as a group of women hang a woman from a tree, only to find that she won’t die. Who the woman is, what did she do to deserve this fate and what happens to her when the hanging doesn’t work is a thrilling proposition looming over the film, which is in no rush to fill in the blanks. .

At its core, it’s a coming-of-age movie about a teenage girl who rebels against an overbearing parental figure. Izzy is quiet and reserved until she reaches a stage of maturity – and a level of independence – where she begins to question everything. Then she becomes enamored of her own power, actively seeking to disobey and go her own way. It’s an age-old tale, but this time the byproduct is a world full of animal bones and several human victims.

master of hell doesn’t break the mold, but it’s an accessible and engaging film that should earn the Adams family a legion of new fans. Keep an eye out for this DIY family; they are to be watched.

This Fantasia 2021 review was originally published on August 14, 2021.

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