The story revolves around Dora (Chloe Rose), a teenage girl who discovers on Halloween that she is pregnant. She spends most of the rest of the day worrying about how to tell her mother and boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk) before changing into her costume and waiting for Jace to arrive to take her to a party.
But he never arrives. Instead she is visited by first one then more unusual trick-or-treaters. These children don't speak, wear costumes that cover their faces and give off a distinct air of menace. This turns into actual violence and Dora is besieged in her home. As the film continues the violence becomes stronger and Dora's mental state more fragile. And the foetus in her womb is growing rapidly...
Hellions radiates atmosphere from every frame. McDonald's direction is superb and the cinematography (Norayr Kasper) simply gorgeous. The choice of an angel costume for Dora is inspired as it both symbolises the innocence she's lost and serves to make the whole thing even more surreal. In places it felt like I was watching a Peter Greenaway film.
And like most Greenaway films the story is... odd. On one level it's just a Halloween tale of child demons and home invasion. But there's clearly more going on here.
Given Dora's fear and guilt about her pregnancy, are her childlike abusers her own personal demons, either literally or metaphorically? Is it all even actually happening? There are numerous hints that what we're seeing isn't reality and is all in Dora's mind; the final scene would seem to point that way as well. There's one scene early on where she gets into a bath and I'm half convinced that everything after that is in her mind.
But only half convinced. Whilst most of the shots are from Dora's viewpoint - Rose does a great job of carrying the weight of the film - there are also a few from the viewpoint of another character. If it was all imagination then those shots just shouldn't be there. Is that a mistake or a clue that at least some of what we're seeing should be taken literally? Or am I simply over-analysing things?
Overall Hellions has a compelling, nightmarish atmosphere and is technically superb. However I think it might have been a little too tricksy for its own good. I'm happy to be left wondering whether things were real or not, but here I felt a little cheated.
So Hellions is definitely one to watch, just be aware that you won't get any resolution.