As of recently, Shudder, the horror streaming service owned by AMC Networks, picked up Wonder Wheel Productions Hellbender before the premiere at the 25th Fantasia Festival on August 14th. I was fairly surprised that they chose to do that until I watched the movie for myself and understood why. Hellbender is a 2021 movie written and directed by Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams who stars in the film alongside Lulu Adams.
Hellbender is a truly unique piece of Horror as the family effort put in the story and acting makes the conflicts between the main duo Izzy (Zelda Adams) and her mother (Toby Poser). Izzy throughout the story is sheltered from the world due to having a “rare illness” while her mother goes out day by day to restock the house. In order to keep her daughter away from the outside world, the two have a mother/daughter experimental punk band titled H6llb6nd6r. However, eventually after Izzy befriends a neighborhood girl (played by Lulu Adams) she consumes a live worm only to unleash a violent and insatiable hunger from her family bloodline.
The music in the soundtrack presented by the in-story band H6llb6nd6r is arguably one of the best pieces of the film alongside the fantastic acting Zelda, Poser, and Lulu present throughout the story. During my watch of the film I kept thinking to myself that “I need the soundtrack to release immediately,” the punk-like music helps not only the story’s style but also with the setting and background of these characters.
In many ways, the story of Hellbender about discovering oneself in a strange environment, Izzy, the main girl, is sixteen and figuring out herself and often wonders why she is forced to be isolated with her mother in the mountains which eventually causes her to sneak out oftentimes to meet up with a local girl (Lulu’s character). She’s trying to understand who she is or if she’s even sick which causes the conflict between Izzy and her mother, another fantastic element within the narrative. The performances by Poser and Zelda steal the show. Their work on the movie is what gives Hellbender its charm.
The story deals heavily on occult, witchcraft, and even in its own way, a mother and daughter’s constant struggle. Due to this, we get a story with a fairly natural piece of humanity in each character despite its somewhat absurd setting. It creates a world where despite the horrors we see on-screen, it feels real to the audience. A feat like that is breathtaking in scope. The fact that a good portion of Hellbender’s creative team is made by a family truly does help with the natural feeling Poser and Zelda give each other in the film as the two are in fact family themselves.
The film manages to deliver some satisfying and terrifying scares for the audience causing the entire story to be neatly tied together as a final product. It’s unique, horrifying, and a great piece of family-made horror. As of right now, the film is scheduled to premiere on Shudder in early 2022 while the film currently is at Fantasia. It’s a wild ride start to finish and this isn’t a horror story you want to miss.
If you liked this article, check out Piper’s other work here!