I am one to hold the belief that not all movies need to break new ground. However, the most important aspect of a film for me is the story and its ability to draw me in. This can extend to the setting, the plot, and the characters and if at least some of those connect to the audience then I can overlook other shortcomings. Hellmington is a 2018 Canadian Horror/Thriller film that tries to tell a good story, but it just never quite reaches its destination.
The film tells the story of Detective Sam Woodhouse as she goes to her father’s side as he is on the brink of death. We see through a series of flashbacks that she has experienced something traumatic. Possibly her husband and daughter dying in a fire. She gets to her father in time for him to utter his last words, which are “Katie Owens.” Katie was a girl who attended high school with Sam and went missing shortly after she left for college. It was a cold case Sam’s Uncle was involved in that haunts Sam, for reasons unknown. Her uncle Rupert allows her access to the old records and Sam begins to investigate on her own. She finds a connection to the occult and unveils a cover-up spanning decades.
My biggest issue with the film is that it takes forever to get going. It’s what some critics would call a “slow-burning” film that slowly builds up over time. Unfortunately, the pacing never really takes off. The entire plot of the story is stretched out over an hour and twenty minutes without any real payout. The ending is clichéd and uninspired and the first thing I thought was, “Oh, that was it?” What is worse is that it didn’t even make sense in the grand scheme of the film. It seemed almost like an afterthought as if the writer wasn’t sure how to end the film so, instead, they just shoved something in there.
Note: This next small section covers the plot of the film. Do not click on the spoiler tag if you do not wish to have it spoiled for you.
Sam Woodhouse – A detective haunted by her past. She is searching for clues as to what happened to her old classmate Katie Owens. She lost her daughter in a fire years ago and is trying to cope with the death of her father.
Rupert Woodhouse – Sam’s uncle who also runs the local police force. He hopes allowing Sam to look into Katie’s disappearance will help get her mind off of her father’s death.
Katie Owens – A classmate of Sam’s who went missing shortly after Sam left for college. Throughout the film, we find out that Sam’s old boyfriend cheated on her with Katie.
Brad Kovacs – Another classmate of Sam who was Katie’s best friend. He was the prime suspect in her disappearance but there was never enough evidence to convict him.
Lance Mansbridge – Sam’s high school boyfriend that cheated on her with Katie. He’s doing well for himself, but we find out there’s more to the story than initially thought.
It was frustrating watching the film and seeing everyone but the woman playing Sam doing a great job. She isn’t a bad actor, which we see later on in the film. She’s just a very monotone and one-note character, so it was hard to build any sort of connection with her. There were a couple of comedic relief characters in the film which clashed heavily with Sam’s solemn nature. The best actors by far were the men who played Rupert and Brad. I just feel like there was more character development with them than had been with Sam throughout the entire film. However, the breakout star of the film was Brad, played by Munro Chambers which is sad considering he’s a very minor character.
This was an area in which I felt was the strongest for this film. The shots were very clean and of good quality. I felt like they were effective in bringing out the emotion of the scene, but it fell flat mostly because of the acting and soundtrack choices. The filming reminded me of Hollywood quality but, unfortunately, I felt like it was wasted as even good filming could not make up for what the film was lacking.
This was an infuriating aspect of the film. During the title sequence, the soundtrack tries to unsettle the audience by the use of synth and what I can only describe as a bee bumping into the microphone. There’s just this very loud and obnoxious buzzing sound that plays throughout the film during “intense” moments that completely took me out of the experience. It was just an awful soundtrack, and what music was present reminded me of a rip-off of Stranger Things with its heavily synthesized tones. Which would be fine if the film took place during the 80s, but it is a bizarre choice for a film that is taking place in 2018.
Hellmington is presented as a Horror, Thriller, and Drama film. While I can see some of these elements throughout the film, they didn’t mesh well. Sam was to plain to build a connection to make us care what happened to her and that’s an important feature that needs to be presented in any film but particularly with Dramas. There was occult imagery and ideology present throughout the film, but none of it was scary. In fact, it didn’t seem like they were trying to make it even remotely unsettling, and it came off as corny and funny. Especially during the ending where we finally see the cultists. Finally, I felt like the pacing was way too slow for a Thriller. I think they would have been better off picking one of these dramas and really focusing on taking the film into that direction.
Hellmington can be summed up in one word, frustrating. I wanted so much to enjoy this film because you can tell that all of the groundwork is present to tell an interesting story. However, it wasn’t well executed and quickly falls apart as the film goes on. It’s a relatively short film, only about an hour and twenty minutes long, but it felt like it was so much longer because the pacing was terrible.
6 story, 7 characters, 8 cinematography, 2 soundtrack, 5 genre