Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘HELLBENDER’ rocked me to my core.

HELLBENDER

A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.


Honestly, if I could choose to grow up in another family, it would be the Adams family. I’m not talking about Morticia and Gomez. While I adore that lot, I’m talking about the indie horror filmmaking family. These industrious and smart people consisting of Mom, Toby Poser, dad, John Adams, and daughters, Zelda and Lulu. Fantasia 2019 audiences got their first taste of spooky genius with The Deeper You Dig. It was scary, intense, unique, and then some. This year, Fantasia 2021 audiences got to experience a new tale of terror with Hellbender.

Their cinematography is stunning. They really understand how to fill a frame. Their writing feels collaborative. John Adams’ score is deliberate and insanely effective. The songs are so fantastic I would buy their album! Within the first three minutes of Hellbender, I gasped and rocked out. If that’s not a winning film, I don’t know what is.

Zelda Adams as Izzy is so intriguing in her innocence and curiosity. Her journey from child to adult occurs before our eyes, whether we like it or not. Toby Poser, as Mom, is a force of nature. Often telling an entirely emotional story without words. Their chemistry is never forced. This is not always the case when a family works together. In the case of the Adams family, it’s their biggest strength. Their work is dark and that takes trust and guts. And allow me to assure you both are teeming in Hellbender, quite literally. There is one special effect in particular that blew me away. When you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s a mother-daughter relationship film that just so happens to center around a witchy heritage. Predictably, deceit under the guise of protection is bound to backfire. Hellbender is about a secret and sacred family history. But, it’s also about the power of the feminine and a slick takedown of any sort of patriarchal structure. The social commentary between the treatment of witches and any female, ever, is glaringly obvious, but no less genius. Hellbender is undoubtedly one of the most kick-ass films from this year’s festival. It’s no wonder it won Best Score and Best Actress (Zelda) in the CHEVAL NOIR AWARD FOR FEATURE FILMS. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to join in their fandom.

*PS- The Adams’ have agreed to let me be part of their family via Instagram. I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I’ll run the camera and hold the boom next time. Also, not afraid to get covered in blood.*


 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘The Deeper You Dig’ will never let you rest in peace.

THE DEEPER YOU DIG

In the aftermath of a roadside accident, the line between the living and the dead collapses for a mother, a daughter and a stranger.

This is one of the most unique films of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. The fact that our three stars wrote, directed and shot this film is absolutely astounding. The script is filled with intrigue from the get-go. You can feel the isolation of the Catskills location and the weather exacerbates the ominous tone. I’m a born and bred New Englander so I know what it feels like, smells like, sounds like to have a woodsy area covered in snow. I grew up with snow tires, daring to trek out in snowy weather when all else stayed home for safety. This super cool family dynamic works wonders on film. Not just between mother and daughter, but the trust that John and Toby must have had in an elaborately choreographed climax. Not to mention the gruesome violence inflicted on each of them during the course of the film. Toby Poser as Ivy is grounded and complicated. Her character’s intuition and boldness make her a strong hero. Zelda Adams as Echo (which, by the way, the name is a total double entendre for the plot and ridiculously genius) is pretty magical in both her vulnerability and her playfulness. John Adams as Kurt is scary. His slow descent haunted madness is wild. I was completely enthralled by these performances and the writing. Not only is it a complex ghost story, but it has intense dreamlike trances, communication with otherworldly spirits, and pure guilt-driven vitriol is quite a thing to behold. The practical and special FX are damn good. This talented trio of filmmakers deserves attention and applause. The Deeper You Dig had a visceral effect on me. This film will stay with me for a while and I am proud to highly recommend it.

THE DEEPER YOU DIG