New Horror Releases: Hellmington (2019) - Reviewed

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I really wish there was something else out there like True Detective Season 2,” then you’re in luck.  For the rest of you that would never utter those words, Hellmington will be a hard pass:  it is a slow-burn detective film that hints at intriguing occultism and murder, but never fully delivers.

Samantha Woodhouse (Nicola Correia-Damude) has suffered greatly in her past.  Haunted by the tragic death of her daughter in a house fire, she is now a hardened detective that doesn’t seem to feel much of anything.  When her police sergeant uncle Rupert (Michael Ironside) calls to let her know her estranged father is on death’s door, she doesn’t seem fazed, but in his dying gasp, her father utters “Katie Owens”—the name of her high school classmate that went missing years ago, with whom Samantha didn’t have the best relationship—and her attention is piqued.  Samantha is determined to unlock the mystery behind that name, which takes her down a dark, blood-stained path and a harsh examination of her past.  She learns shortly before Katie went missing, she became entangled with the Revenians, a secret cult obsessed with numerology and the balance between darkness and light.  Unfortunately for Samantha, the more she learns about this sect, the more they seem to learn about her, and she begins to feel like her life is in danger.

There is enough that Hellmington does well to keep the viewer engaged, most notably its portrayal of the past, which is featured heavily throughout the film.  While the present day in this film looks drab and lifeless, many of the flashback scenes are bright and saturated.  The past seems more alive than the present here.  This sharp contrast shows that Samantha is in many ways living in the past, unable to move on since the death of her daughter, and living in regret about the way she treated Katie Owens back in high school.  The problem arises in the fact that since most of the film exists in the present day, it’s not necessarily a nice-looking film to watch.  Nevertheless, the story itself is bleak, and therefore merits this color treatment. 

The cult elements of the film will be enjoyable for horror fans, but they are so few and far between that the majority of it feels like a straightforward detective story.  For those diving into Hellmington expecting a horror film, change and probably lower your expectations.  While there are a few unsettling moments in the film, it is mostly a lethargic thriller that never fully delivers any scares, but manages to earn a few startles.  The violence is also understated in the film:  most of it is shown at a distance, ostensibly because the film’s budget couldn’t afford some quality gore effects, but it also ends up depersonalizing the violence, which ultimately ends up working in the film’s favor thematically.

The most lingering issue for the film is that we are following a protagonist that isn’t particularly likable.  While we can empathize with her in certain regards, Samantha is so cold and stoic that she lacks the charisma to keep an audience interested the entire time.  Nicola Correia-Damude is a fine actress, but a more compelling screenplay and better direction could have made her shine in this role.  The same can be said for Michael Ironside’s role:  the script and director failed this seasoned actor, but he does well with the scarce material he is given.

Hellmington is a thoughtful examination of grief and regret with a few carefully made artistic choices, but it lacks much else.  If you have a lot of patience and aren’t expecting a full-blown horror film, you might enjoy it, but it is ultimately a slightly better-than-average low-budget thriller that is mostly forgettable.

--Andrea Riley