Hellmouth (2014)

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*. This is a film produced by Foresight Features, which is an outfit based out of Collingwood, Ontario specializing in low-budget, offbeat horror (they’re the same people who did Exit Humanity, the Civil War zombie pic).
*. In fact, this one was so low-budget it was financed partially through an online crowdfunding campaign. I suspect the inspiration came from watching Sin City and realizing that they could do something similar and — what was an even more important consideration — it wouldn’t be that expensive.
*. So we’re back in an indeterminately retro era (the fashions and vehicles are vaguely mid-century) and a world of green screen and CGI, stark black-and-white with bursts of dramatic colour. Red in particular is lipstick and blood, two of the most important cues.

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*. Surprisingly, it works. At least the Sin City look does. It may not break any new ground in this regard, but Hellmouth is a visual treat, with all sorts of interesting details going on in the background. In particular I liked the strange container crates we see the sculpted figures in the cemetery carrying in one shot. What is going on there? Are they stevedores? It feels like we’ve traveled to some industrial Easter Island.

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*. I also like Steven McHattie as Charlie Baker. He is perfectly cast as the reclusive dreamer who is as tough as shoe leather but the leather is finally coming apart at the seams. I kept thinking of a Walter White all strung-out and twitchy on his own supply.
*. Unfortunately, Hellmouth doesn’t have a very strong script. This is a bit surprising seeing as it comes from Tony Burgess (he plays the character of Chips here), who is a horror master (he also wrote the screenplay for Pontypool, which is based on his novel).
*. I thought from the title that it might be adapting material from Burgess’s story collection Hellmouths of Bewdley, but that’s not the case. There is no connection at all. Instead the script just seems like a bunch of unrelated elements that are stitched together in a crude way. The escaped convicts, for example, serve no purpose at all.

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*. There are hints at some informing myth standing behind it. We begin with Murnau’s Faust playing on the television in Charlie’s cabin, but I don’t see where the Faust story has anything to do with what goes on here. Instead the basic idea seems a revisiting of the Orpheus myth, with Charlie descending to the underworld to rescue Fay. But even that is shaky. Does Fay seek Charlie out to rescue her? If so, why? She can’t be rescued.
*. Stories like Faust and Orpheus, however, are grounded in belief systems. The point of Hellmouth is that Charlie doesn’t believe in anything that’s happening. He finally has no faith except in himself. The point seems to be that a lonely old guy who is dying doesn’t have to go to Florida or to Hell to find some meaning in his life since in the end he has to find that meaning in himself. Even love is a mirage. The sense I get is that the movie wants us to find this somehow life-affirming but it seemed depressing and ultimately deluded to me.

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