Gilbert Speaks on ‘Hellbender’

It’s always fun to review a horror film, but when that horror film also includes some kick-ass great songs for the film, then I am hooked 100% in doing the review.


Hellbender, a Shudder Original Film Premiere, was written, directed, produced by the Adams family who not only starred in the film, but also wrote and produced the music for the film. Of their six films, this is the second horror film by the Adams family. The first one was The Deeper You Dig.

The film begins with the hanging of a witch, by other witches. What had this witch done to have her sisters turn on her? We learn more about the connection between that scene and the present time as we follow Izzy (Zelda Adams) a sheltered 16-year-old living in the woods with her mother (Toby Poser). Mother and daughter spend the majority of their time foraging in the forest for their food. Their house is small, but well kept, and both mom and Izzy love playing music. They write their own songs with Izzy playing amazingly on the drums. It’s an idyllic life except for one problem. Izzy is cut off from the rest of society.

Mom does go to town for supplies, but Izzy is never allowed to go because Izzy has a compromised immunity. Even though the bond between mother and daughter is loving and strong, Izzy, being a normal teen, is bored and lonely. She craves the company of other teens. After encountering a lost hiker in the woods, Izzy learns that the man (John Adams) has a niece, Amber, who lives nearby, and he tells Izzy that she should introduce herself to his niece. One day, while investigating the woods, Izzy meets Amber (Lulu Adams). They click right away, and Amber invites Izzy back to the house to go swimming and to meet other teens.

There may have been a good reason why mom didn’t want Izzy to interact with other people, and it wasn’t about Izzy’s immune system…Izzy is having fun with Amber and the other teens. She tells them about the band her mom and her started, Hellbender, and she also does a drum solo for them. It is the perfect teen party until they get out the booze and play a drinking game. It involves tequila and a live worm. Izzy, wanting desperately to fit in, eats the live worm, and that is when all hell breaks loose. After the real owner of the house shows up and chases the kids off his property, he tracks a dazed Izzy into the woods.


Hellbender keeps you glued to your seat from the first scene to the last. Everything is connected and although Hellbender is a story of motherly love, it is also a dark tale about witches. When Mom realizes that Izzy has inadvertently awakened her power by eating the worm, she finally reveals to Izzy that it isn’t a disease that keeps them away from other people, but the blood lust of their nature. Mom thinks that she is helping Izzy to control her power, but in the final scenes, we realize just how powerful Izzy is.

I have to say that I wasn’t expecting this film to be as great as it was, and as an added bonus, we were treated to some awesome musical talent. I had to research who the Adams family was and let me tell you this…I see more top shelf films coming from this family. The Adams family began filming on a shoestring budget, but the film that I watched is definitely good quality both in the scenery, the acting, and the special effects.

Hellbender is now streaming on Shudder.

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