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“More than a trick, yet just short of a treat.”

hellionsJust in time for Halloween comes this atmospherically and spooky tale, in which teenager Dora (Rose) has a day – and a night – to remember. It begins with her discovering that she’s pregnant, news which initially causes her to stay home and brood over her future. She changes her mind and texts her boyfriend to come pick her up; he never shows, and instead she finds herself increasingly tormented by young, masked figures, who repeatedly knock on her door. The doctor (Sutherland) makes a house call, only to discover Dora has gone from four weeks to four months pregnant in just a few hours. Dora is also being plagued by nightmarish visions sacrifice, and it becomes clear that those little figures have some very unpleasant plans for our heroine and her baby-to-be.

The religious symbolism here is not exactly subtle: Dora’s Halloween costume is that of an angel, and once you see one of the creatures dissolve when accidentally exposed to salt, it’s clear they’re from down below (well, clear if you’ve ever watched Supernatural, at least!). It’s an angle I’d like to have seen better explored. The script perhaps needs a Peter Cushing type, to pop up as Reverend Exposition and lay some groundwork, instead of forcing the audience to figure everything out on the fly, such as the rules to the occult universe this inhabity. What it does deliver, is atmosphere by the bucketload, with McDonald drenching the screen in every kind of filter imaginable, creating a world where you’re never sure what’s real, and what’s a product of Dora’s escalating and deranged imagination. It’s helped by a very creepy score from Todor Kobakov and Ian LeFeuvre, which takes the first four notes of Silent Night, and riffs on them to impressively unsettling Carpenter-esque effect.

There’s also something thoroughly striking about the image of a shotgun-wielding angel (as shown), even if the cartridges have been re-loaded with salt, and Rose makes for an engaging heroine, who manages to be smart, without toppling over into Juno-esque slappability. McDonald was also responsible for the off-kilter zombie film, Pontypool, and the film is at is best when Dora is engaged in an Assault on Precinct 13-style – again, more Carpenter – battle against the ongoing siege of the hellions, with the help (or is it?) of a local cop (Patrick). Unfortunately, the story can’t quite sustain that pace, and runs out of steam notably in the final reel, which brings us round to where the film started, with Dora waking up in hospital. You could do worse in terms of a choice for your own Halloween viewing than this; if not quite a full-size chocolate bar, it’s definitely better than a stale Tootsie Roll.

Dir: Bruce McDonald
Star: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson

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