Hellmington Movie Review

Written by Greg Fisher

Released by Uncork'd Entertainment

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Written and directed by Justin Hewitt-Drakulic and Alex Lee Williams
2018, 83 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 10th, 2019

Nicola Correia-Damude as Samantha Woodhouse
Michael Ironside as Rupert Woodhouse
Shannon McDonough as Pat the Motel Manager
Angelica Stirpe as Katie Owens

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Samantha Woodhouse has not led an easy life. In high school, her rival Katie Owns mysteriously disappeared after prom, where Samantha viciously beat her for sleeping with Samantha’s boyfriend. This event shadows her life moving forward, as she becomes a policewoman, and then detective, as well as a mother. More tragedy strikes when her house burns down in the night, killing her daughter. Nicola shortly thereafter returns home to Hellmington to visit her father, a corrections officer, on his deathbed. Events of the past begin resurfacing, and Samantha begins to investigate the disappearance of her classmate; the actions of her father; and her uncle’s, the local police chief, involvement in all of these things. Tangled in all of this is a mysterious cult that may have had a hand in the disappearance, and a ruthless gangster that her father may have been in bed with at the prison.

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The story, while proficiently assembled and executed, becomes needlessly elaborate in certain instances and falls short in others. One certainly gets the full understanding of why Samantha has become the person that she is and why she is so determined to plow forward in her investigation. Her doggedness and bleakness eventually, around the third scene where she sits in her hotel bathroom quietly contemplating, makes her a character that the audience roots for, but doesn’t particularly like or take a wholly vested interest in. Nicola Correia- Damide does a great job with her role, but when an artist is only painting with a palate of greys, the end result can only go so far. Michael Ironside does what he does best, sporting a mustache and an annoyed, gruff attitude. His inclusion in the cast, after being tailor-made for his part, still rings as “This is our big get for an actor!” by the directors. Shannon McDonough does well as the comic relief, a “she doesn’t look like the type of person to say these things, but she is” type of bespectacled hotel manager. The rest of the cast really does what they need to do to convey their lines and the story, but not much more than that.

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Justin Hewitt-Drakulic and Alex Lee Williams, the writers/directors of Hellmington, certainly get points for effort and ability. They lay out a script with mystery, thrills, horror, and a creeping dirty small-town vibe. Visually, they take a strong sense of color, or lack thereof, and use this to layer the performances and story with nuance. Unfortunately, wrapping a grey story with grey acting in muted earth tones and mist only succeeds in pulling the totality of the movie into a depressive funk. It works, but maybe too well. The only scenes given any sort of life are the brief snippets of Samantha playing with her daughter in flashbacks. Those scenes are bright and vibrant, subtly oversaturated and warm. In other scenes, even the greens of trees and blues of the sky are stripped of life, as though we are seeing the world through the joyless eyes of present day Samantha. While this is a nice technical achievement to pull off, it feels like too much, as if it tips the scales too far and makes the viewer that much more sullen and takes them out of the story instead of pulling them further in. The inclusions of the cult and the prisoner who had Samantha’s father on the take are meant to add dimensions to the story, but both fizzle out to underwhelming conclusions and seem more filler than flair in the end.

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Movie: 3.5 Star Rating Cover

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