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Blu-ray Review: 'Hellbenders'

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The Film:

“Hellbenders” is another one of those attempts to merge comedy and horror in such a way that should result in the audience getting the best of both worlds. However, as many have found in attempting such a feat, the balance is one of the hardest things in all of cinema to get right, which is why it’s incredibly rare to see films as good as “Evil Dead II” or “The Cabin in the Woods.” “Hellbenders” leaves the cabin behind and instead focuses on a group of priests whose job it is to fight demons. One of the stipulations of their line of work is that they must always keep themselves what is known as “damnation ready,” just in case they need to take a demon into themselves and die to drag them back to hell. This causes them to live lives of debauchery, i.e. committing as many sins and breaking as many commandments as possible. Their latest case involves a demon who has broken free and threatens to open the gates of hell, with our gang of heroes being the only ones who can stop it from happening.

In part, “Hellbenders” reminded me of the recent “Hell Baby,” not that this was nearly THAT bad, but more so in how it wasn’t willing to go far enough in the horror genre to really have much of an impact. They try, and there are some good scenes to be found that feature decent special effects and makeup, but if they had gone further (like the two successful mash-ups of the genres I mentioned), then there could have been something here. On the comedy side of things, they take the standard movie priest and multiply it by about 1,000. We’re used to seeing priests in films smoking a bit or having a drink or two, but these guys take it to the next level. The problem is that it’s so over the top that it’s just not funny, and being that this is where writer/director JT Petty is trying to squeeze all of the humor from, this results in there being no laughs to be found throughout the whole film. At the very least, it can be said that the comedy is not cringeworthy like it was in “Hell Baby,” so it’s a tolerable film to watch, but that still doesn’t stop it from being pretty bad. As I said, the balance is a difficult one to get right, and because of that, “Hellbenders” becomes just another attempt that fails.

Video/Audio:

“Hellbenders” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that looks great throughout its entire presentation. Every frame is crisp and clear with no noticeable signs of fuzziness to be found. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is also top-notch, allowing all sounds to be heard with crystal clarity. All layers are mixed at appropriate levels, giving you the optimal experience in both the visual and audial departments.

Special Features:

God’s Dirty Work: The Making of Hellbenders: A decent “Making of” that runs about 30 minutes and features interviews with cast and crew in which they discuss various aspects of the film. Worth watching if you’d like to learn more about what went in to putting it together.

Audio Commentary with Writer/Director JT Petty and Cast: This track shows that Petty and a couple of cast members have absolutely nothing to say about how the film got made, making it a complete waste of time to listen to.

Fly on the Wall: Behind the Scenes Footage: About seven minutes worth of intriguing behind the scenes footage showing certain scenes being shot. There’s not much to learn from it, but it’s still interesting to watch nonetheless.

Original “Exorcism” Short Films: About 30 minutes worth of footage that was submitted by contestants hoping to have parts of their short films used in the movie. Some of these are actually really well done, making this extra one that’s worth exploring.

Conclusion:

Despite having a couple of decent extras and a presentation of great quality, it’s not nearly enough to make up for the film itself. Those filmmakers looking to create a successful comedy/horror blend need to realize that playing it safe in both genres is not going to get you very far. Unfortunately, “Hellbenders” doesn’t take any risks, leaving the horror at too low a level and trying to get comedy from a situation where there isn’t any, making this nothing more than a very forgettable film.

Score: 2.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: The Americans: Season One, Darkman, Rocky: Heavyweight Collection, Chicago: Diamond Edition, All is Lost, Austenland, How I Live Now, Night of the Demons, Witchboard, Dallas Buyers Club, The Fifth Estate, Captain Phillips, You're Next, A Single Shot, Insidious: Chapter 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Now playing in theaters: Labor Day, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Also be sure to check out my lists of the Best and Worst Films of 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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