Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HELLMOUTH (Review) - Toronto After Dark 2014


review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by John Geddes
Written by Tony Burgess

Starring Stephen McHattie, Siobhan Murphy, Boyd Banks, Julian Richings, Bruce McDonald, Adam Seybold

On Friday, October 17th, HELLMOUTH had its World Premiere to a sold-out crowd at the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Although Toronto After Dark had one of its best lineups in years, HELLMOUTH, sadly, was one of the worst films of the most disappointing films of the festival.

Produced by the Collingwood-based production company Foresight Pictures, which brought us Monster Brawl, Exit Humanity, and Sceptic Man, Hellmouth stars Stephen McHattie as a gravedigger with a degenerative brain condition on the verge of retirement. He's strong-armed into postponing his retirement for six more months to take a job at another cemetery where the keeper has gone AWOL. Charlie takes the job, but somewhere along the way crosses into a hellish dimension where he witnesses a number of demons, must save a beautiful blonde damsel, and faces off against a Mephistophelian mirror version of himself

The audience`s face
Sounds kind of cool, right? Well, whatever the intentions of the filmmakers, Hellmouth flops. It`s a metaphysical mess of crude horror-fantasy-noir that represents a considerable backstep in quality for everyone involved. I love the writing of Tony Burgess, but the script for Hellmouth that made it to screen was disoriented, scattered, and rambling without stakes or story. In director Geddes's Civil War-era zombie film Exit Humanity, Geddes showed a really strong ability to deliver action and great character work, but in Hellmouth there's just nothing especially good or interesting going on. For the story of a man who descends into his own personal hell, it was really boring. I dozed off once or twice in no small part because the audible snoring of the guy next to me and the sleepy breathing of the audience member a rows up were infectious. Not even the film's visual style was enough to keep my eyelids from drooping. Hellmouth is shot first in black and white and then with hints of colour against a digitally-produced green screen background (ala Sin City), to evoke some kind of rough approximation of 1950s horror movies. Sadly, these effects are painfully cheap-looking and underwhelming. Why was Hellmouth shot like a 50s horror movie when no part of the film felt or sounded like a 50s horror movie? Maybe I've missed something here.

Overstuffed and undercooked, Hellmouth is an infernal dud. A really great performance by Stephen McHattie cannot even pull Hellmouth out of the hell of its own making. 

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