Published Oct 22, 2015Sometimes, the scariest part about death isn't the afterlife, but the pre-afterlife — the years and weeks and days that lead up to inevitable after a terminal diagnosis. The Hexecutioners posits a world where this doesn't have to drag on: "palliative technicians" can be assigned to cut a miserable life short by euthanasia. To hold a life in one's hands is a daunting task, one that weighs heavily on a person's psyche. But hey, why explore these very real fears when you can make a movie based on clichéd horror tropes and jump scares?
The Hexecutioners squanders an excellent idea, and a great opportunity to tell a story about death and loss. Malison McCourt (Liv Collins) works for a company that sends out technicians to perform government-regulated euthanasia, requested by the dying. After a traumatic first day, Malison's supervisor, in an attempt to make her more comfortable with the job, pairs her up with Olivia (Sarah Power), a three-year veteran, to act as a mentor. Their first assignment together? A "special dispensation" death, with ties to an ancient death cult that is not happy about being resurrected.
While ambiance is its strong suit, with a particular scene near the film's end a gorgeous blend of red, black and white, it's not creepy enough to sustain an entire 97 minutes. The first half hour consists of nothing but jump scares, mostly of elderly people emerging out of the darkness. It's an interesting visual metaphor for Malison's fears of bringing death, but not a particularly imaginative one, especially since Malison doesn't exhibit any specific reservations about the elderly in general.
We get tantalizingly close to finding out what drives these specific women to do their jobs, or what motivates people to seek assisted suicide in general, but these conversations get constantly cut short by a glut of horror clichés: Scary crows! Weird masks! Flickering candles! Creepy children! The Tibetan Book of the Dead! There's very little context around any of this, though, so the film ends up feeling like a series of vaguely connected creepy scenes, bookended by a more interesting story about different reactions to the ending of life. There's very little payoff, with all of the madness explained in one rushed, convoluted exposition dump in the final act.
Although a bit stiff at first, Collins and Power do develop a bit of chemistry, elevating them beyond Prim Nerd and Hot Bad Girl. Unfortunately, it doesn't begin until halfway through the film, but it makes the rest infinitely more watchable. Two complicated female leads with definitive emotions and unique personalities sure makes a better horror film than the same old "creepy death cult" story we've seen dozens of times; it's a shame The Hexecutioners couldn't resist the latter.