A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.

Editing: John Adams
John Adams

Cast: Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, Lulu Adams, John Adams, Rinzin Thonden, Khenzom, Shawn Wilson

Directors: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
Writers: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
Cinematography: John Adams, Zelda Adams

I was in the dark about the Adams family comprised of John, Zelda, Lula Adams and Toby Poser, who have made several horror movies together now, but this was my introduction. I’m pleased to say that this family affair was such a unique and passion-filled film for the horror genre that I’m now very keen to go back and check out their other movies. 

Hellbender is a witchcraft film, but not of the kind you’re used to seeing in the genre. Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives a scheduled life in the wood with her mother (Toby Poster), who has been telling her daughter she has a rare health issue, and that’s why she can’t attend a school or be around other people. What’s she’s truly hiding is a secret lineage to a coven of witches, but how Izzy discovers this and what this leads her to do, I won’t spoil here. 

The film, much like the actual cast behind the scenes, is all about family. The relationship between Izzy and her mother is integral, and it’s a relationship that starts very wholesome. Especially when you see them playing in the band ‘H6llb6nd6r,’ which I wasn’t shocked to learn is a real band the Adams family has as a side project. 

When Izzy bumps into Amber (Lulu Adams) while exploring the forest around her home one day, it’s easy to see where the trouble will begin. Watching this relationship with another girl, even if slightly older, was some of the best scenes in the movie as it shows what Izzy was craving, and understandably. As much as she loves her mother, it’s obvious she wants to explore the world and meet new people. And Lulu Adams does a great job her playing off her younger sisters nativity to the bigger world. 

The Adams family appreciates horror movies, especially ones centred around witchcraft. Hellbender plays into many of the tropes while showing it has its own sinister story to tell. When Izzy starts showing signs that her power is awakening, I began to fear for Amber and even her mother. Even with a small budget, this film makes the most of its secluded setting and achieves tension in scenes beyond its budget with clever editing and lighting. 

I was surprised I enjoyed Hellbender as much as I did. Admittedly, I may have judged the family dynamic negatively coming in, but I was soon proved wrong. Hellbender is one of the better witchcraft movies I’ve watched in recent years.