Hellbenders is the story of the Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints, which is basically the nuclear option for getting rid of demons. The idea is that when exorcism and other demon-banishing tricks just won’t work, a hellbound saint will allow himself to get possessed and then commit suicide, dragging the demon to Hell with him. In order to make sure that they’re “damnation ready,” the hellbound saints spend their lives breaking commandments and committing the seven deadly sins. I assume the multi-denominational nature of the organization is the reason they don’t just assume that the whole suicide thing is enough to guarantee a trip to Hell, but trying to work out the intricacies of the doctrine is kind of missing the point.
Clifton Collins, Jr. (who you’ve probably seen in a bunch of movies even if you don’t know the name) plays the point of view character Larry, who’s torn between trying to help his wife recover from alcoholism (which isn’t easy if your husband’s job requires debauchery) and making himself damnation ready, preferably through some adultery with Elizabeth, the only female hellbound saint. When the Pope dies, the Catholic Church starts checking into some of the more obscure corners of its operations to prepare things for the successor, which means sending someone to check out the Order of Hellbound Saints. As if Dickless threatening to shut them down wasn’t enough, they also find out that an ancient Norse god is getting ready to open a portal to Hell and kill God. From there, things get messy.
The movie is unapologetically low budget with all sorts of borderline cheesy practical effects. They sort of make it work by filming parts of the story like a reality show, but they mostly drop that conceit pretty early on. There are also some documentary-style scenes included, mainly for exposition. The style changes don’t really hurt anything, but a little more consistency would have been nice.
In my opinion, the main thing holding the movie together is Clancy Brown (who you probably know from his supporting role in everything), who plays the group’s leader, Angus. Angus is sort of a cross between Father Merrin, The Dude, and Al Swearengnen, and Brown seems to enjoy the hell out of playing the mean motherfucking servant of God.
Overall, Hellbenders may not be a great movie, but it’s an incredibly fun movie.
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