Published Sep 14, 2012"Fuck you, cracker!" Those words shouted at a Eucharist by a member of the Hellbound Saints of Brooklyn Parish for the purpose of getting "damnation ready" for an exorcism aptly conveys the tone of J.T. Petty's irreverent and bombastic spin on the demon-purger horror formula.
Fiercely contentious and not entirely well thought out, Hellbenders is almost certain to alienate more viewers than it'll win over with its crass humour and spirited rule-breaking.
The fourth wall is torn down almost immediately, with the cast of characters introducing themselves by explanation of how their sins of choice led them to join this league of faithful degenerates.
They are the suicide bombers of the Catholic Church — believing they are unworthy of redemption, each member is required to break the Seven Deadly Sins and the Ten Commands as often and as enthusiastically as possible so that a ticket to hell is definite if they are forced, as a last resort, to commit suicide after inviting a demon in to their body to save an innocent.
Frequent drug use, profanity, bi-sexuality, masturbation, profanity, infidelity and violent outbursts are part of the job description. The meagre plot — a God-killing demon possesses one of their own and the Saints have to stop it while trying to convince a new regime at the Vatican to let them keep their funding after a bureaucratic sceptic threatens to shut them down for blasphemy — takes a backseat to (and detracts from) the wildly drawn characters and extravagant impertinence towards, not just religious doctrine, but any set of authoritarian rules within range.
Petty is almost equally interested in lambasting the juvenile attitudes and conventions found ad nauseum in a genre riddled with sadistic, heteronormative perspectives and the vilification of femininity. He applies profane comic excess (especially in the gore department) and editing beats that play the aggrandized posturing of gangster propaganda off of the sanctimonious, hypocritical preening of the church.
This rambunctious blender full of themes and snotty, rebellious ambition isn't as nastily incisive as Petty's previous effort (should-be cult favourite The Burrowers). Nonetheless, it's a wickedly entertaining, venomous castigation of rigid value systems that looks pretty hot in 3D. (Preferred Content/The Exchange)