You have to go into this movie not expecting much in the way of quality and lay to rest any notion that this might be even remotely scary. Director J.T. Petty, who is mostly known for his video-game screenplays and recent horror film 'The Burrowers', has given us an over-the-top possession movie that plays more like a slap-stick comedy more so than a fun and entertaining horror film. That being said, there are some entertaining moments and some good laughs, but it's at the cost of how absurd and vulgar the film actually is, and not by how well anything is executed.
And it's quite funny that someone made a movie about Catholic priests who pride themselves on doing the wrong things and are hell-bent on breaking every commandment. The Catholic church over the past decade or two has been the butt of many jokes and under close scrutiny, and for good reason. But it just seems rather hilarious that this plot would revolve around a group of servants of God who choose to be terrible people, when the church wants anything but that.
'Hellbenders' plays out a lot like Ghostbusters, but fails to deliver any entertainment on that level throughout its short 87 minute run-time. This romp centers around a group of rogue priests who are now full-fledged exorcists, who are hell-bent on ridding the world of demons who are possessing the living. Their backup plan if they do not successfully rid the demon, is to force the demon into their own bodies and kill themselves, thus sending both the demon and them to hell.
Hence, this is why these priests lead a life of sin and debauchery. The two main priests are Angus (Clancy Brown, the bad prison guard from The Shawshank Redemption), an older priest who is constantly drunk and getting into trouble, and Larry (Clifton Collins Jr., 'Pacific Rim'), who is a younger, inexperienced priest who is just as equally drunk, and is more or less in charge of keeping the rest of the degenerate priests on the rough and rowdy path.
However, a demon by the name of Surtr shows himself in New York City and begins terrorizing the people of the big apple in record numbers. So who you gonna call? Hellbenders, that's who. The film is shot on a low-budget with some low end set pieces, but boy, does it have some big aspirations. With all of the foul language and silly moments that happen in the film, which seem to only happen to shock us, 'Hellbenders' tries to throw in a little heart and soul towards the end of the picture, but it never really works.
Every actor here including Dan Fogler (Fanboys) and Andre Royo ('The Wire'), all seem to have a bit of fun with their roles, while being sad that they said "yes" to this ridiculous movie. Sure, this film is meant to shock and offend the conservative movie-goer, but there are better ways to do this. In the end, 'Hellbender's never really leaves a satisfying taste, and instead we are left with a few laughs and an hour and half gone.
'Hellbenders' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This also comes with the option to watch it in 3D. The film was made with digital cameras on the cheap. I guess in order to hide some of the lousy CG visual effects and practical effects, director J.T. Petty kept things pretty dim on set. The detail is sharp, but only in well lit scenes, which isn't very often. Most of the time, the image looks soft with a lot of low contrast. Even in the closeups, you won't notice fine textures. And the fact that this is in 3D doesn't help, because when you have a 3D image, the picture is automatically a little darker.
The colors all have been de-saturated for the most part to give a gritty look, and no color seems to pop off the screen. That being said, the 3D looks surprisingly good. They did a good job of placing objects and props all over the screen to get a great since of depth with this 3D, and there are some decent pop-out effects as well. However, the coloring just seems to dark to get the full experience. The same can be said for the 2D version as well. Black levels are not consistent all the time, and there is some evidence of some compression issues. It's the worst video presentation I have seen, but it isn't exactly the best either.
This release comes with a less than average lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. I wish this sounded better. For this being a demonic possession movie and perhaps an apocalyptic film, the sound doesn't really impress. You'd expect some creepy sound effects and ambient noises pouring from the rears, but unfortunately what we get is some light noise with a limited dynamic range.
I expected the demonic voices to be loud and filled with a terrifying low sound, that would make the bass rattle and send shivers up your spine. However, the voices aren't that scary sounding and even have some lip synching issues. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand though. For a horror-action film like this, the audio needed to have a richer and crisper sound.
'Hellbenders' isn't for everyone. This little horror-comedy had high aspirations, but never fully got off the ground. There are some great gore for you blood freaks out there as well as enough F-words for two movies. But ultimately, you'll leave unsatisfied, as this is just a little to ridiculous and over-the-top. It fails to find its footing and get to the point. The video and audio presentation are not as good as they could be, but the extras are quite fun. For you raunchy horror fans, give this a rent first before purchasing.