Hellblazers (2022) Summons The Devil: Forgettable Indie Horrors
First Non-Festival Release: January 21, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Justin Lee
Writer: Justin Lee
Runtime: 84 Minutes
Starring: Tony Todd, Meg Foster, Adrienne Barbeau, Billy Zane
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Late one night in the woods of a small town, a Satanic cult performs a sacrifice to awaken a demon hellbent on creating chaos everywhere it goes. Upon release, it is their duty to continually feed the demon humans, so it does their bidding. Who is on the menu? The townsfolk from the sleepy town nearby, of course. As their police department pivots from the important work of locating lost dogs and shooting rabid raccoons, they must save the town from the demon and cult members invading.
An irritating venture in cult action horror, Hellblazers burns out in typical an overly ambitious fashion.
From the get-go, it’s clear that this is action horror comedy is not meant to be taken seriously. Introductions that are meant to show how wacky the characters are feel more forced and stereotypical for small town America rather than charming. For example, I can understand a small town having a large supply of guns, but I am skeptical of a town that has as many explosives and with as many citizens having access to them. Where are they getting this? It doesn’t make sense. The excess explosions also feel repetitive and drag the story down further without making the film more intense or enjoyable even.
The humor is largely hit or miss. Comic relief flows liberally from almost every character, but it always feels like they are just off the mark from making a good joke. Everyone either hams it up or is too absent from the screen to have any real impact on the film. Stock characters are more of a means to pad the film’s body count more than tell a compelling story. Several appear for a scene or two before disappearing from the film. What’s more, even ones that re-appear only do so for a moment before getting killed off.
For an action-horror creature feature, Hellblazers is genuinely bland and forgettable, which is a shame because they could have done something fun here. Hopefully, Tubi starts to get bigger budgets for their films as their services get used more. It’s campy enough to catch some attention initially but slowly fizzles into the mundane once the schtick loses its luster. The promise of its premise is lost on poor comedic timing and a stillness behind the direction of most scenes. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances from notable horror alumni Tony Todd, Billy Zane, and Meg Foster erode even more goodwill from the film as well.
There are some positives to be shared about the feature despite the issues. The creature effects are good and look to be largely practical. Other moments feel cheaper and take the viewer out of the film. Poorly done computer generated explosions and blood spurts make the film feel sillier than it intends to be. It’s not that their presence is offensive but more so that it’s clear the filmmakers made it work for the creature but did not bother to extend beyond that. One of the best scenes occurs late in the third act where a protagonist is swinging an axe at the monster haphazardly in a Christmas tree field and makes for a cool set piece.
More of a carnival ride basking in the nostalgic glow of the Satanic Panic horror of the 1980s, Hellblazers is a bland and derivative feature that doesn’t quite deliver on the goods. Shoddy writing makes Hellblazers a difficult watch as the generic, cardboard cutout characters make it hard to stay invested in the shenanigans of the newly arisen flesh-eating demon in small town Americana. Beloved horror stars are relegated to quick cameos that leave much to be desired for horror fans aching to see them truly chew the scenery. The jokes don’t land, the antagonists are lame, and the action is generally repetitive. There are better cult horror films than Hellblazers that deliver more than just evil and give you a reason to hear them out.
Overall Score? 4/10