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Fantasia 2021: “Hellbender”

© Wonder Wheel Productions

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Mothers tend to protect their children and fight for them with the force of a lion. No power nor human being can stand between her and her flesh and blood. It’s the definition of unconditional true love. But what happens when the child grows up? How will they pay back? What can he or she do to show that all the efforts for the betterment of the child did not go in vain?

“Hellbender” revolves around Mother (Toby Poser) and a teenage daughter Izzy (Zelda Adams). The girl is kept isolated in the Catskill Mountains to protect her from the outside world due to her compromised immune system. Soon, the girl realizes that the true reason for being held back from civilization is because of family ties to witchcraft and the power of hellbender that poses a risk to anyone who dares challenge them.

Directed and acted by the Adams family (John Adams), including the lead cast (no wonder the resemblance between Toby Adams and Zelda Adams), apart from the storyline, the film worked perfectly due to the strong family ties. A coming-of-age story is not what you expect but something more sinister. Izzy is a shy girl who has no friends or anything else to do except being a drummer in a family band called Hellbender. Having no audience does not stop the mother-daughter duo from practising their musical skills. Because it is the only innocent thing they both are capable of.

Mother, who appears to be a controlling and oppressed human being, will soon switch her place with her daughter, once Izzy finds out how strong she can be. Because we don’t know what Izzy is capable of, we want her to break free, have friends, a boyfriend, and finally leave for the big city. But we know there is something off with her too. And when it is time for a showdown, you all will be happy to observe it from a distance. Because once Hellbender reveals its power, there is nothing holding it back from exercising it more and more.

That being said, “Hellbender” is a film that will make you wish for more such projects showcasing a strong family bond. Yes, it’s a horror film with some scenes that are not easy to watch. But it aims more at character study, dark atmosphere and family connection, putting a mother and daughter’s bond to the test. It’s an imaginative, raw and intelligent gem you will enjoy watching. As for the concept, one thing will come to mind: we can nurture, we can give love, we can provide care and we can do anything to give protection to our loved ones. But when the heart and soul begin their fight against nature and fate, there’s nothing much that can be done. Because once the battle is lost, it’s lost forever, and “Hellbender” has a unique way of describing that.

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