Cast: Clancy Brown, Dan Fogler, Macon Blair, Clifton Collins Jr., Robyn Rikoon
Written by: JT Petty
Directed by: JT Petty
This would-be orgy of blasphemy, making its World Premiere at TIFF, is essentially “Ghostbusters” with foul-mouthed, whoremongering drunken priests and naked demonesses, with a good deal less spent in the special FX department (even by the comparatively lower budgets spent on Reagan-era spectacles). Like a Lady Gaga video, it seems a bit too desperately engineered to end up on the Vatican's "condemned" list, but mostly, it's just another comedy where everyone on set seems to be having a lot of fun, with disproportional translation to the audience, making for a long 85 minutes...
The titular “Hellbenders”, are, in fact, “The Hellbound Saints of Brooklyn Parish”, who are the ones “you’re gonna call” when the likes of Father Merrin fail miserably.
To be ordained into their bong-water-and-piss-stained inner sanctum, one must be a sinner of the highest (or would that be lowest?). As embodied by their leader Angus (Clancy Brown), the more sins one has committed (all seven, ideally), the better equipped to confront and defeat evil on its vilest own terms.
The other saints include married, conflicted Larry (Colins, Jr.), bookish apprentice Stephen (Royo, "Bubbles" from "The Wire") who chronicles The Saints' epic transgressions, hard-drinking Saint Elizabeth (Rikoon), and "Balls Of Fury"s Dan Fogler as the requisite funny-fat-guy whose character barely registers (and sits out the entire climax).
When the Saints are called to a tenement for what seems to be a routine exorcism, one of them becomes possessed by a particularly vile Norse demon who will stop at nothing less than world domination and the End Of Times. That is, if the persnickety Catholic Church bureaucrat (read: "Walter Peck"), under instructions from the new Pope, doesn't shut them down first...
Produced by Circle of Confusion and OffHollywood Pictures, and directed with much enthusiasm by JT Petty, the film intrigues with a lively setup, but doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting after the first act. Petty’s earlier films, the monster-western “The Burrowers”, and the straight-to-video “Mimic 3”, were far more inventive visually. Here’s there’s an over-reliance on master shots and gloppy makeups. Apparently, this is a straight adaptation of Petty’s own graphic novel, which I’ve never read nor encountered on shelves…
The always-welcome Clancy Brown tears into the role of Angus, and walks away with most of the script’s best lines, most of them unprintable here.
Surprisingly, the film was shot, deliberately, with 3D technology, but it benefits in no way whatsoever by exploiting the Z axis, with minimal--nay, zero--effect here.
Film Arcade will release Hellbenders theatrically in the North America in 2013.
©Robert J. Lewis 2012