Hellinger
R1 - America - MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (21st October 2014).
The Film

Twenty years ago, young Melissa (Kelly Goldstein) learned that the urban legend about Hellinger (Wayne Petrucelli), the demon who takes the eyes of the wicked, were true when the demon killed her abusive father (Stephen Steel) and promised her that they would meet again. Ever since then, Melissa (Shana Betz) has lived in absolute terror of the dark. Having been disillusioned with the help she sought from corrupt evangelist Reverend Sharp (Solomon Cobitt), she has turned to psychiatrist Hillman (Robert Cummins) who shares the view of the police that Melissa's father was killed by an escaped psychopath and that Hellinger is the personification of her fear of the dark in response to the trauma. When Hellinger appears again and her friend start dying, Melissa turns to her bounty hunter cousin Kendall (Artie Richard) who is already doing some private investigating on behalf of NYPD detective Lonegan (James M. O'Donoghue) into the mutilation death of a Wall Street bigshot in a rough area of Brooklyn. As Kendall delves into the Hellinger legend, he traces it back to the story of a fifties media evangelist whose unorthodox experiments seeking proof of Heaven's existence resulted in his fiery death. When Melissa disappears, Kendall may need a deus ex machina (or at least a "director" ex machina) to save her from Hellinger's unearthly intentions.

Although HELLINGER has Troma Studios all over it (from T-shirts to posters to an executive producer credit for Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman), it is not actually a Troma film. It is actually the work of Massimiliano Cerchi (who is not, as IMDb suggests, the same person as Italian schlock director Al Passeri whose off-the-wall The Mummy Theme Park and Plankton evince considerably more technical polish), a direct-to-video filmmaker who travels in the same circles as Troma and John and Mark Polonia. One gets the impression that the film's disjointed assembly has more to do with scenes either lost or unfilmed over a long shooting period rather than incompetent plotting. Indeed, the film sets up a number of story threads that seem as though they are going to eventually tie together but fail to do so, especially Sharp's much-touted but never seen "gathering" and some nastiness involving Melissa's roommate and her ex-boyfriend. The climax seems thrown-together with some heavy exposition to explain away some deaths and the resolution amusing in its execution but unsatisfying. Some of the film's other shortcomings, however, are part of what makes it entertaining. Rather than dubbing Hellinger with a creepy voice, we get to see the comic contortions the actor puts his face through to deliver his lines in such a gravelly and husky manner, and the onset of muffled heavy metal music also usually signals the disrobing of one of the actresses. We get two gratuitous shower scenes that cater to both sexes and persuasions (that is, if anyone is actually wonders if Kendall's tattoo art is full body). The mythology of HELLINGER isn't that bad of a concept, and a more straight-laced approach with a healthier budget might have resulted in one of the more interesting horror films of the nineties, but the end result is more appealing to fans of Troma schlock and the bottomless depths of direct-to-video horror.

Video

HELLINGER has changed distribution hands a couple times, with single releases through Terror Vision, a double feature from Sub Rosa Studios, and a quadruple feature from BCI (which also included Cerchi's CARNAGE ROAD). The digital video image has either been slightly cropped or slightly stretched to anamorphic 1.55:1 which neither fattens the faces of the actors nor ruinously crops the compositions (such as they are). There are a couple glitches in the master tape, but that was probably true of the source. The compression can be noisy, but some of that probably has to do with the videography and the nineties NLE export (just over two hours on a single-layer disc is not that unusual, even from some larger studios, but the encode itself probably could have been slicker).

Audio

The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio is as variable as the original shooting when it comes to location audio (and the low budget error of shooting live sound during shower scenes even when there's no dialogue), but the dialogue is audible even when the music threatens to drown it out.

Extras

No extras other than the second feature film HOLY TERROR. The back cover for the earlier Sub Rosa Studios double feature mentions audio commentaries for both films but this is unconfirmed at the moment.

Packaging

Standard keep case packaging with a striking front cover design and a back cover so busy with text so small it's difficult to read the synopses of the films.

Overall

Neither film is satisfying on its own (although HELLINGER gets the edge), but for $9.95 (or less if you find it in-store, probably), it's a nice enough time-waster.

The Film: B+ Video: C+ Audio: C+ Extras: F+ Overall: C+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.