Halloween is all about dressing up, the dead coming to life, and a grocery list of our favorite monsters. Vampires, werewolves, witches galore. Capes and pointy teeth, torn clothes and extra fur, pointy hats and hairy moles. When it comes to the media, witches are usually portrayed like a running joke of a cliché. Not as cheesy or ridiculous as Halloween costumes, but pretty much the same. Every now and then, a movie or TV show comes along that changes that perception. Gives you something raw and visceral while reinvigorating the genre. Hellbender did that for witches.
The Adams family (not to be confused with that one TV family) is a brood of talent. Models, musicians, and, yes, filmmakers. In 2019, they released their first horror film, The Deeper You Dig, but it was 2021’s Hellbender that brought them front and center in the horror world. Gifted to the streaming world by Shudder in 2022, Hellbender rewrote the rules of the witch subgenre, something we didn’t know we needed until then.
Izzy (played by Zelda Adams) is a young teen struggling with being isolated in the mountains with her mother (Zelda’s real-life mom Toby Poser). She’s a homeschooled vegetarian and raised to believe she’s too ill to be around people, but the truth is much more horrifying. One day, as she wanders the woods, she runs across a house with a backyard swimming pool. A girl named Amber (Zelda’s sister, Lulu Adams) waves her over, and they start a tentative friendship, one that makes Izzy realize Mother’s not quite been honest with her. During a drinking game with some of Amber’s friends, Izzy swallows a worm, her first taste of meat, and something inside of her shifts. Her mother teaches her about their heritage of witchcraft, which is the start of the absolutely bone-chilling tale. With psychedelic flashes and lots of unique spins, Hellbender takes horror lovers into new territory which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
The idea of a family working together to create movies fascinates me, so as soon as I watched Hellbender, I became almost obsessed with the Adams family. From articles I’ve read, they seem to work together as one in a symbiotic relationship that fuels their ingenuity. It’s as if the family themselves were created just for this purpose. Before The Deeper You Dig, they worked on dramas, but they seem to have really hit their niche with horror. Yet, as stated earlier, their talent goes much deeper than filmmaking and acting. Woven within the beautiful tale is original music performed by the goth band of movie mother and daughter, H6LLB6ND6R. While one would expect heavy metal, the music is more of a new wave punk style that’s truly unique and very difficult to categorize which is perfectly in keeping with the movie itself. The music and the mini music videos created by the band “practicing” (as Izzy and Mother call it) complements the film so well that it’s almost a necessary part of the movie. Without it, we’d have something very different.
Although reports state that the family is currently working on a period piece horror movie, this fan would love to see a prequel to Hellbender. So much could be done with the history of the “Hellbender” family and these incredibly unique witches that hopefully it will be revisited at some point. One thing remains true, though: No matter what the Adams family tackles, they have a huge future ahead of them in the horror genre, and this fan will be one of the first in line to watch everything with which they grace it.