“Notions of chance and fate are the preoccupations of men engaged in rash undertakings.”- Cormac McCarthy
After finishing the film Hellhounds, I believe I can fully understand why writer/director Eric Widing chose this quote to begin his movie. In Hellhounds we see through the eyes of Ross Graves. As the movie progresses, we learn that Graves is being hunted by a group of demons known as Hellhounds as the result of a deal he rashly made. To say too much more would risk giving away the true impact of this movie, which is the way the story unfolds through the perspective of Ross Graves and the fantastic film-making talent of Eric Widing.
A dream-like quality permeates throughout the entire film as we join Ross on the run from his demons. For the first third of the movie, it is hard to be sure exactly what is going on, but sticking with it is well worth the wait as everything begins to come together. Soon, we begin to see that Ross is being hunted and is on the run from his own past, some of which he can’t even remember. Every rash choice he makes worsens his situation and brings the Hellhounds closer.
The performances are very well done and range from good to great. Josh McElfresh plays the protagonist, Ross Graves, and does a fantastic job of portraying a man who is struggling to grasp what is going on while existing in a dream-like state. Even though he is the lead character, we do not see McElfresh on screen much since the majority of the movie is shown from the first person. This does not prevent McElfresh from really selling the role throughout whether we are seeing his actions from a third person view, or simply hearing him interact with others. Another excellent performance in the film is given by Erin Ryan. Those who have seen Ryan’s previous films know that she tends to play likeable characters who we quickly become invested in throughout the film. Immediately from her first appearance on camera, we can see that this will be a very different role for Ryan. Living, her character is aggressive and completely contrary to her typical character as well as her real-life personality. As a demon, Ryan, with the help of fantastic make-up work, will haunt your nightmares. This is a performance that really gives Ryan the chance to prove her range as an actress and the vast talent she possesses.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this film is the amazing make-up work. Each of the Hellhounds is outstanding and demonstrates a real attention to Widing’s uncompromising vision for his film. These are creatures straight out of our worst nightmares. In addition to the great make-up, Widing’s use of a mixture of color, black-and-white, and inverted colors in the various scenes add a surreal nature and an added layer of quality to the Hellhounds. His shots tend to be very deliberate and artistic, taking notice of the smallest elements around the characters, drawing your attention right where he wants it throughout the film. Widing’s use of light and dark contrast are another demonstration of his skills as a film maker. He maintains the dream-like state of the movie by exposing the elements on which he wants to focus and creating the atmosphere he desires by not limiting himself to a single method of color and filming. The blood and gore effects are decent and become more impressive when you realize that Widing made this film on a very small budget.
When you add in the music, the film really comes together as a great work. The tone is set carefully in each scene by lighting, color styles and choice, the hard work of the actors, and the music which ties it all together, better allowing the viewer to experience Ross’ emotional and mental state at any given point in the film.
I will not say that everything was perfect. A few minor criticisms do stand out during the film. The character of Ed Thorton is never really fully explored. By the end of the film, I am still not sure if he is the devil or just another demon. The performance given Sonny Burnette as Ed Thorton comes off a little dry and unemotional. It is possible that this was what Widing intended, but it seems like the character could have been more animated. The pacing is a little slow at times, but the payoff makes those moments well worth the wait and adds to the overall build-up of the movie. There are a few spots where the blood effects seem a little overdone, particularly in Erin Ryan’s death as the blood that flows from her mouth looks too thick. Finally, at a few points in the film, it can be difficult to follow the action, as it does not seem to always follow chronologically. However, if you continue to stay focused on the film, most things do come together and make sense by the end.
Overall, I was very impressed with Eric Widing’s work on this film. He obviously had a very clear vision for what he wanted to do with this movie and he pulled it off well. Even with my minor complaints about the film, I would definitely say that it is a great addition to the horror genre. One thing that must be kept in mind before major complaints and critiques are made regarding this movie is that Widing was working with a budget of $400 in producing this work. That’s right, I said $400. For what most people spend on two car payments, Eric Widing managed to create a surreal vision of horror to share with fans. When you take that into consideration, it elevates your appreciation of this movie and what Widing accomplished. I would challenge those who are critical of this movie to do better. If you are looking for a high budget blood fest filled with multi-million dollar special effects and editing, this movie is not for you. If you are looking for a unique horror movie that will grab you and not let go until the end credits, you have found it. Let’s just hope that this is only the first of a long list of movies to be created by such a talent film maker as Eric Widing.
On a scale of 1 - 5, I see the breakdown of this movie as follows:
Acting - 4/5
Story - 4/5
Effects - 4/5
Camera Work/Production Skill - 4/5
Overall Entertainment Value - 5/5
Total Score - 4.2/5 - HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!
Where can I find Hellhounds, you ask? Check it out tonight!
Available World Wide - http://www.indiereign.com/v/c3c4d
Only Available In North America Here - http://www.amazon.com/Hellhounds-Josh-McElfresh/dp/B00HL2KFFA/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1388433343&sr=1-1&keywords=Hellhounds
Also available on DVD through Storenvy - http://widingfilms.storenvy.com/products/3352062-hellhounds