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HELLBOY (2019)

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is back from comic book page to movie screen and unfortunately, without Ron Perlman and Guillermo del Toro. Not the conclusion of the previous film’s proposed trilogy, it’s a new origin story with a new cast and a far darker and somewhat less humorous tone. This latest incarnation finds Hellboy (Stranger Things’ David Harbour) dealing with both the truth of his destiny to bring about the apocalypse and the resurrection of the Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich), who’d love to help him. The heroic demon has to wade through an army of creatures and even some close to home betrayals to try and bring her down and save the world.

Reboot is directed by The Descent’s Neil Marshall from a script by Mike Mignola and Andrew Cosby. As such, it is darker, edgier and more of a horror film than the PG-13 superhero films that preceded it. There are gallons of blood and gore spattered on the screen as Hellboy and allies, psychic Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), were-beast Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) and his “father” Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) battle dozens of monsters, demons and mythical creatures. There is a lot of bloody action and while it lacks the charm and fun of del Toro’s flicks, it is entertaining enough in it’s own right. Marshall’s visual style is different than del Toro’s, but no less spectacular, as we are treated to all sorts of monsters including a wrestling vampire, the pig-like Gruagach (Stephen Graham), Slavic folk legend Baba Yaga and a trio of hungry giants. The film has it’s stumbling points, such as that it is rather plot heavy with elements of everything from monsters of myth to King Arthur, Merlin and Excalibur. We also get another retelling of Hellboy’s origin that isn’t different enough to make it necessary, though this flick does delve deeper into who he really is. We also once again get glimpses of his apocalyptic destiny that are very familiar to what we have already seen. Sure this is a reboot, but it recovers quite a bit of old ground without enough innovation to keep it fresh. The film feels a little overloaded with all that goes on, though ironically, the final confrontation with Nimue came across as a bit underwhelming. It’s over quicker than one would expect after a two hour build up. No it’s not del Toro’s Hellboy, but it’s not the train-wreck early word makes it out to be, either.

As for Marshall’s cast, Harbour is solid as Hellboy. He doesn’t quite have Perlman’s roguish charm and arrogant swagger, but he actually is pretty good in the role. McShane is a veteran actor and his Professor Bruttenholm is less the doddering old man than John Hurt’s interpretation and is given a bit more of a gruff, grizzled demeanor. Kim is also fine as the macho soldier with a ferocious secret in his B.P.R.D. operative Daimio. He and Hellboy butt heads at first, but we know they will bond at some point. Sasha Lane is cute and feisty as the psychic Alice and Jovovich is a suitable enough villain, though never really given strong enough material to let her unleash her inner Maleficent. She could have been a bit more over-the-top. The dozens of CGI supporting monsters are rendered well enough, though some appear a bit more cartoony than others.

In conclusion, this reboot is not as memorable as del Toro’s adaptations, yet is not an insult to them either. Neil Marshall has a heavier hand than Guillermo and this flick stretches it’s R-rated limits, but he also creates some impressive otherworldly sequences with a cool array of beasts and critters. The film is loaded with action, but also felt a bit bloated at times with a lot of plot elements. It has a decent cast and if we can’t have Perlman, Harbour isn’t a bad replacement. Not the mess early word has made it out to be, though not an equal to the previous cinematic incarnations that came before it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) rebooted Hellboys.








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Halloween set flick tells the story of nine year-old Dougie Whooly (Alexander Brickel) who is obsessed with a video game called Satan’s Little Helper where the player takes on the mantle of an assistant to Old Scratch who is gathering souls. Dougie is so obsessed with the game, that he dresses as Satan’s Little Helper for Halloween and when he meets up with a man wearing a devil costume, Dougie thinks the game is being acted out before his very eyes. Sadly, Dougie is either delusional or insane as the costume wearing individual is a real murderer who takes the all too willing youngster on a killing spree across town. Will Dougie’s hot number of a sister (Katheryn Winnick) be able to save Dougie from this fiend, or will she also become a victim of this all too real game.

Odd horror/comedy (?) is written and directed by Jeff Lieberman who gave us the cult classics Squirm and Blue Sunshine in the 70s and the slasher Just Before Dawn in the early 80s. The film asks us to forgive a lot to put it’s story in motion, mostly in how much little Dougie seems to go along with what are obviously real acts of violence. The film never establishes if Dougie has some sort of problem that causes his total detachment from reality, or is he one really stupid, or mentally challenged kid. He’d have to be to bond with a complete stranger and then join him in acts of violence and even murder…all on the pretense that this is a live reenactment of a video game and that it’s all a big prank. Even his eccentric mother (Amanda Plummer) seems to tolerate a lot in terms of Dougie’s game obsession, when most parents would be getting quite concerned. She even thinks it’s cute when the boy claims he is going to marry his older sister Jenna (Winnick). Then again, the dumb script expects us to believe that the town police force seems to be content to sit back and watch their fellow officer’s heads wrapped in tape while eagerly awaiting their turn, since they are all found like this in groups. As a horror, there is little suspense or frights as the whole thing is just so goofy and the only thing that gives it a bit of atmosphere is the Halloween setting and some gory moments. The costume our anonymous killer wears is pretty spooky, but again, the silliness of it all keeps this from being really effective. If the film was intended to be more of a comedy, it’s not very funny and produces few intentional laughs. The director also directs with a leaden pace and the flick is at least 10 minutes too long with our main characters leaving and returning to their home continuously.

The cast are all fine and seem to give it their all. Hard to fault young Alexander Brickel for the hard-to-believe behavior of Dougie as this is how the script is written. As the kid, he is a creepy and disturbing little boy and it’s hard to feel sorry for him when he finally figures out this is all real and he has been placating a psychopath…but that is how Dougie is written and directed. Katheryn Winnick really shines as his hot and quite resilient sister Jenna. She makes a good heroine and seems to be the only character with her head on straight and knows fairly early something very wrong is going on. Amanda Plummer plays the same type of eccentric, oddball she seems born to play and is fine as Jenna and Dougie’s clueless mother. Stephen Graham is also adequate as Jenna’s ‘friend’ from school, but he isn’t given all that much to do and the character never really gets developed much, despite a fairly large role in the film. The killer is played with some creepiness by Joshua Annex, but we never see his face or is he ever positively identified as any of the people he’s suspected to be.

The film has a bit of a cult following, but I don’t get it. Sure, there is some atmosphere and gore and Winnick is a very hot heroine, but there is way too much suspension of disbelief in terms of Dougie. It’s hard to believe any kid is that stupid that he sees people hurt and killed right before his eyes and thinks it’s all part of some Halloween game. He also seems disturbingly certain his favorite video game is being acted out live with himself as a participant, which also indicates a kid in desperate need of therapy. Lieberman directs with a slow pace and despite his experience, some of the set-ups seem a bit sloppy and the script definitely needed work. Check out Lieberman’s Just Before Dawn for a far more effective slasher unless you want to give this a shot, it does have it’s fans.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) devil masks.

satans little helper rating