Hellbender. Available now on Shudder.
After graduating college I began working at the Mississippi Delta’s small newspaper. After just a few months the owners appointed a new executive editor. This was an aggressive, desk-pounding kind straight from college. The Front Page. He did not opt out of the announcement on Friday that four newsroom reporters would accompany him to the saloon.
He began to order trays of Tequila Shots for us at the bar. More. More. The reporter who foresaw the disaster pretended that he needed to go to the restroom and then slipped away. A third one awoke in the drunk tank of the city, and his car was impounded. He woke up in the city drunk tank and found his car impounded. My back porch was covered in water, and I couldn’t remember how I had gotten there or where I lost my keys. To get into my room, I had to smash a window.
Because I just finished watching Shudder’s streaming horror channel, this is what I want to mention. HellbenderI am sorry, but my is not the only one. second-The worst shot introduction in recorded history of debauchery tequila – When Hellbender‘s teenaged Izzy loses a drinking contest with her friends and has to do a shot with a worm in it, she starts channeling shrieking witches and craving an all-Renfieldian diet. You can practically see a little thought-bubble over her mom’s head, longing for the good old days of Tide pods.
Made for about $1.29 by a husband-wife director-screenwriter team who used their own family for cast and crew, Hellbender is at once painfully obvious and creepily enjoyable. The opening scenes aren’t very suspenseful. They’re a flashback of what appears to be a 17th century witch hanging. (The victim, while not quite a witch, is close enough to government work). It is clear that Izzy and her entire family are being harmed by supernatural hobgoblinery, as evident in the deft sketches of Izzy.
Izzy (Zelda Adams) and her never-named mother (screenwriter-director Toby Poser, a longtime cast member of the soap Guiding LightZelda Adams is Zelda Adams’ real mother) and he live on his own in rural mountainsides. There they home-school together, join a two-person-performance gothic metal band, and also play with Zelda. Cut!You can live on mostly tree bark and nuts, and cut!
Izzy claims she is suffering from an auto immune deficiency and cannot go to town. Instead, Izzy spends her days hiking in the primval forest. Eventually, Amber Adams, Amber’s real-life sibling, meets her. Amber uses the illicit swimming pool at the house located on the neighboring mountain. Children are kids. Tequila, worms and cannibalism follow quickly.
Many of the gritty charms of HellbenderIt comes out of the cockeyed and anthropophaginian coming to-of-age conversation that ensues. Mom is struck by the number of broken bones in her neighborhood and decides that it’s high time to talk with Izzy. Izzy’s conversation will be short on bird and bee information but rich on maggots or lizard recipes.
The girl’s auto-immune system is really okay, but like Mom, she’s a critter known as a Hellbender, which acquires witchy superpowers every time it eats a living creature—the bigger the better. Mom admits that Hellbenderism is fun. But it can also be dangerous. Grandma “ate half of the village” before people got their pitchforks and torches out of their garages. Teenage quarrels are easy to get out of control. Sweetie-pie expressions, such as “I just want you to eat me up”, can be a problem for many reasons. The most important thing is that Hellbender generation gaps can be a lot more stubborn than those we had back in the 1960s.
Hellbender has wit, style and some awesomely gruesome special effects. Poser’s husband John Adams, who also appeared in the show early as an a la carte item, would love to know what Poser and Adams could accomplish with a real budget. Anyone want to Go Fund Me? Avoid the dinner deal for early birds.