Hellmouth is the new one from Exit Humanity director, John Geddes. And writer of Pontypool, Tony Burgess. Hellmouth is a neo-noir horror tale, created with the usage of contrasting colors and other such visual techniques. Some would say that this is in the style of Sin City, which is helped along by the fact that the first third of the film is black and white, with a few traces of color. Personally, I would compare it to Dark Country before Sin City, but I’m one of only 5 people that bothered to see that nice little piece of horror-pulp starring Thomas Jane, so Sin City is probably a more accessible approach to explaining the style to expect. What I’m saying is, a lot of detail is focused on creating the visual style of the world, and it makes for a stunning experience. There are a few frightening scenes along the way. This is a story about a gravekeeper storming the gatets of hell to rescue the soul of a young woman, after all. And in doing so, there are scenes of demonic figures that are genuinely creepy. Never is the sake of driving the narrative forward put before the overall style of the film, though.
HELLMOUTH (Canada) World Premiere
From the twisted mind of writer Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL) comes a stunning, spectacular ode to classic horror and fantasy. HELLMOUTH tells the tale of gravekeeper Charlie Baker, (WATCHMEN’s Stephen McHattie) assigned to tend to a mysterious cemetery. Charlie’s routine journey to his new place of employment turns out to be a dark and fantastic voyage through a Gothic landscape, filled with demonic forces, and a life-altering encounter with a beautiful woman he must try to rescue from the bowels of hell.
The film itself, however, is going to divide audiences, because it doesn’t have much of a coherent plot. Hellmouth creates its atmosphere(and scares) almost entirely through the visual style of the film. That’s not a bad thing, technically, it’s just going to leave some viewers feeling alienated. If you like to take in an artsy approach to horror every now and then though, then this will probably work on you. Prolific character-actor Stephen McHattie turns in a memorable performance, even if the material he has to work with is lacking in detail. The visual style of the film is really a sight to behold, however. If you enjoyed the aforementioned Dark Country, or even something like Give ‘Em Hell Malone, or in some ways, Pin, then you know what to expect here, and you know whether or not you’re going to like it. So far, Hellmouth has the least broad-appeal of any movie I’ve seen from the 2014 Toronto After Dark lineup. Though, even with its lack of a coherent, narrative-driven plot, it’s still infinitely better than David Hayter’s Wolves, which we have already discussed.
The thing about this film is, it’s either going to work for you, or it’s not. But even if you know ahead of time that visually-stunning artsy horror films aren’t for you, you should still give it a chance. I see so many of you complaining about the lack of quality, original horror films being produced, and if Hellmouth excels at, it’s being original. You may recall films such as Dellamorte Dellamorte, taking place at a graveyard, with all sorts of otherworldly behaviors occurring, but really, aside from the setting, this is nothing like that. This is a beast of its own, for better or for worse. And if you’ve ever found yourself publicly complaining about the lack of originality in film, you owe it to everyone, including yourself, to seek films like this out. Even if you find yourself annoyed at the lack of a proper narrative, Hellmouth has enough going for it to make your experience worth the investment of time(and money). I’m unsure at this time, what(if any) the plans for stateside distribution are, but I’m certain that this will be coming to VOD/DVD sometime in the near future, especially now that it played to a sold-out house in Toronto.
Jeff’s thoughts on the film are a tad bit different than mine, but even he can see the value in a film like this. It sounds like it had a solid showing at this year’s festival, and I’m glad to hear it. Both of us will back back tomorrow with more coverage of this year’s Toronto After Dark Film festival.