Hellbender (2021) – Film Review

hellbender film review horror

Directors: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
Cast: Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, Lulu Adams
Certificate: 15

By Sarah Morgan

What did you get up to during those dark days of lockdown?

hellbender film review coverWhile some of us worried about what the future may hold, others used the time to crack on with those projects they’d been putting off, or even learnt a new craft or skill.


The Adams family (not to be mistaken for another famous clan with a very similar name), however, decided to write, direct, produce, edit and star in a horror movie – and the results are pretty impressive.

Toby Poser and her real-life younger daughter, Zelda Adams, take the lead roles of a mother and her offspring, Izzy. They live a sheltered life, cut off from the world at their home in the woods. Izzy is homeschooled, and the pair pass the time by writing and performing their own heavy metal music (which is, incidentally, pretty good).

However, Izzy’s contentment is shaken following a chance encounter with a fellow teen living nearby. Their growing friendship prompts Izzy to begin questioning her and her mother’s isolated existence – forcing her mother to finally reveal she is the latest in a long line of Hellbenders, a potentially dangerous hybrid of witches, demons and predatory animals.

Mother claims she has her powers under control, and wants to introduce Izzy slowly to hers. But matters soon spiral out of control, and as their relationship is put under an increasing strain, it soon becomes clear who is gaining the upper hand…

hellbender film review folk

“Exploding into life”

Frankly, this is one of the most inventive horror movies I’ve seen for a long time. Quiet and understated for the most part, it initially resembles a typical US indie flick before eventually exploding into life via some startling set-pieces and inventive takes on occult lore.

The performances are great too, particularly that of Zelda Adams, who has the lion’s share of the scenes. Her sister, Lula, portrays the girl she befriends, while their father, John Adams, pops up briefly as the ill-fated Uncle.

The film fits into the ever-growing folk horror genre, and although not as good as classic entries such as The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan’s Claw, there is much to admire here. I’ll certainly be looking out for the family’s previous works, which include another chiller, 2019’s The Deeper You Dig.

Special Features:
● The Visual FX of Hellbender by Black Magic Tricks (10 min)
● Hellbender Music Videos: "Lovely" by Zelda Adams (3 min), "Drive" by Zelda and John Adams(2 min), "Black Sky" by John Adams (2 min), "Falling in Love" by John Adams (2 min)
● Bloopers (2 min)
● Zelda’s Alter Ego: Eville Adams (29 sec)
● Behind-the-Scenes Footage (7 min)
● Travelling with Wonder Wheel
Hellbender is on DVD & Digital now from Acorn Media International

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