The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Hellions is Alice in Wonderland if Alice in Wonderland was about unwanted teen pregnancy. The movie finds a young woman going on a strange, surreal adventure, albeit one that puts her in contact with beings far more malevolent than the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. Director Bruce McDonald (Pontypool) focuses more on atmosphere than actual story, which may put off some viewers. Those willing to accept this cinematic hallucination on its own terms, however, will find plenty of fuel for several nights' worth of bad dreams.

Chloe Rose plays Dora Vogel, a teenage girl who has just learned that she's pregnant. This is hard news for her to swallow, and even harder to tell her mother. She finds a convenient distraction in the form of Halloween. Mom and little brother are going trick-or-treating, so Dora decides to stay home to answer the door. The kids who show up seem a little off. Their costumes are not nice store-bought ones, but rather ones that look like they've been made by psychopaths. Dora is a little freaked out, especially when it becomes clear that these are demon-children, and it's not candy they want. They begin pursuing her with rabid intensity. The only person who might be able to help is the town cop, played by Robert Patrick.

That's the set-up for Hellions. Once Dora realizes that something is deeply amiss, she abruptly enters a living nightmare. The movie shifts into more abstract territory, with McDonald emphasizing the bad-dreamlike phenomenon that is taking place. A violent wind storm whips up inside Dora's house. The film's color becomes almost completely washed out, leaving everything bathed in a dull pinkish-white hue. At times, the image onscreen is fractured, or we are shown bizarre images such as an exploding pumpkin patch. As in a nightmare, Hellions becomes purposefully disjointed and disorienting, leaving you unsure what is real and what isn't.

At its core, the movie is really a metaphor for the fears that accompany teen pregnancy. Dora is scared and unsure what to do. She is afraid of the child inside of her, just as she's afraid of the costumed children who chase after her. (They're a representation of the ambivalence she feels toward her unborn.) That, along with almost non-stop eeriness, is what makes Hellions effective. McDonald and writer Pascal Trottier take all the panic and horror the character feels, then translate it visually. The end result is a look at the swirling emotions inside the mind of a girl who doesn't want to be pregnant, fears what it will mean for her life, and has no easy options for making it go away.

Chloe Rose (Degrassi: The Next Generation) is terrific in the lead role. The movie is pretty much all her; everything is happening to Dora, so it's up to the actress to convey the terror in an engaging manner, which she does skillfully. There are several really effective shock scenes one of which involves a garbage chute that are rendered even more suspenseful because of the authenticity with which Rose captures Dora's panicked fear.

Hellions obviously takes a page from the Rosemary's Baby handbook. There also isn't much in the way of plot; it's mostly just Dora running from the creatures. This is an ambitious little film, though. It's not so much about what happens as it is about establishing a tone that puts you on edge, then continually pushing that tone to more and more uncomfortable extremes. Surreal and spooky, Hellions is a nifty way to get freaked out for eighty-two minutes.

( out of four)

Note: Hellions opens in theaters, on digital, and on VOD Sept. 18.

Hellions is unrated, but contains adult language and scenes of graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 22 minutes.

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