Hellbride Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson and Rosie Fletcher
Released by Jinx Media
Written and directed by Pat Higgins
2007, 76 Minutes, Not rated
James Fisher as Lee Parker
Eleanor James as Josephine
Rebecca Herodas Nicole Meadows
James Kavaz as Lesley Meadows
Neil Andrews as The Shopkeeper
Cy Henty as Sinclair
Natalie Milner as Carly
Oli Wilkinson as Ricky Pearson
Another day, another premiere for a Pat Higgins movie. For most directors you might be lucky to see a new offering once a year, but not this industrious Essex lad. For me, another Pat Higgins premiere means another trip down to London. So, with the grime from the last trip (KillerKiller) barely cleared from my lungs, I'm back off to the capital. I'm boxing clever this time, an out-of-centre hotel means I don't get stung for parking, and the overnight stay lets me take advantage of the swanky after-show party (OK, it's a function room at a local pub, but it at least gives everyone a chance to actually get in somewhere on a Friday night in London).
I'm joined by my London guide and First Lady of HorrorTalk, Rosie Fletcher, and she leads me — via the pub — to the now familiar doors of the British Film Institute. Pat greets visitors in the reception area, bouncing around like a hyperactive eight-year-old who's been let loose at the candy jar. He has good reason to be excited, it's a full house.
"The wedding in Hellbride [is] the most ambitious single scene that I've ever attempted,” Higgins tells us, "it's a monster". Tonight's feature was filmed back to back with KillerKiller and features many of the same actors as the first two movies.
The lights dim in the packed screening room (packed for the second time today), and the film opens.
Hellbride is the story of perfect couple Lee and Nicole (James Fisher and Rebecca Herod), who buy a cursed engagement ring to cement their flourishing relationship. The ring is possessed by the ghost of its first owner, jilted bride Josephine, who’s intent on wrecking the lives of anyone who comes into contact with her precious love token.
The Hellbride’s coming and she wants her ring back. If anyone has any objections, speak now, or forever Rest in Peace.
DJ: Pitched somewhere between romantic comedy, mafia movie and gore fest, it's a difficult balance to maintain at times. The audience reaction was overwhelmingly positive to the numerous laugh-out-loud moments, but as a horror movie — which is its target genre — it’s not quite as strong as Higgins’ previous efforts.
Rosie: You’re right; this feels first and foremost like a comedy, from the structure, to the pacing, to the look of the film. Hellbride reminds me a little of Mickey Blue Eyes in some respects. But in rom-coms it’s vital that you care about the central relationship and want the couple to end up together. Lee and Nicole lacked the chemistry needed to make this work, mainly because Lee is as wet as a fish. Nicole, on the other hand, is good looking, swears like a plumber, has a gangland boss for a dad and is perfectly at home hacking people to pieces when necessary. She’s cool, he’s not.
I hesitate to say this, but I think Hellbride might be a bit of a girls’ film. There’s an awful lot of time and attention dedicated to the central relationships — including that of Nicole and her father, gangland boss Lesley (expertly played by James Kavaz, who sadly passed away shortly after Hellbride and KillerKiller wrapped). Obviously the severed limbs and axes in the head aren’t typically female fare, but at heart this is a movie about relationships, weddings and love.
DJ: A lot of the cast we talked to felt the same way; that it was more of a date movie than an all out horror. Concept-wise that’s true, but it also might stand in the way of Hellbride’s success. While horror fans are accustomed, and even welcoming, to the idea of low-budget horror, I’m not sure the general cinema-going population will be as accepting of low-budget romantic comedy with horror elements. And that’s a bit of a shame.
Hellbride is undeniably well written in terms of the dialogue, and its uniquely British humour is carried off well by Higgins’ continued use of stand-up comedians in key roles. Cy Henty completely steals the show in his brief on-screen appearance as Sinclair, the perverted occult expert who lusts after his cousin, Carly.
“It’s OK between cousins you know, Carly. It’s not even illegal”
Rosie: Yes, the dialogue and set pieces are some of the strongest parts of this film. As well as Henty’s excellent turn as Sinclair, the set piece with the security guards attempting to extort clothing from Lee stood out as witty and tight, too. In terms of dialogue it reminded me a little of Pulp Fiction (I think that’s true of KillerKiller, too). There’s a great scene where the rival gangland boss explains what he wants done with Nicole, saying, “I want to walk through pieces of her face kicking them aside like autumn leaves”.
The sound track, too, is very strong, featuring chanting monks, porno funk as well as a great track by a female vocalist that I’ve been singing to myself ever since.
But while Pulp Fiction is fast, slick and pacey, parts of Hellbride were rather “baggy”. Scenes in the nightclub and the flash back to the meadow were superfluous, for example, and there were too many times where people were just standing around waiting for something to happen. It could really have benefited from some brutal editing to cut out some of the pauses and unnecessary exposition.
DJ: I think the dialogue comparisons to Pulp Fiction are spot on. I’d almost hesitate to compare the two, worried that people might think I was on Pat Higgins’ payroll, but some of the exchanges between the characters are that good. It’s the sharp dialogue and naturally funny scenes that lift Hellbride well above most low-budget movies.
As far as the horror elements go, this is where the story is a little weaker. There’s a plausible — plausible in terms of horror movies anyway — back story of the haunted ring, but other elements, such as the “big-nosed monster thing” seemingly appear without rhyme or reason. I know you’re a fan of ‘show and not tell’, Rosie, but sometimes ‘show and a little bit of tell’ isn’t a bad thing?
Rosie: I agree there didn’t seem much explanation of the nose-monster, nor indeed much concern about what happened to Carly’s boyfriend. But this is horror movie logic — plot holes are par for the course. Perhaps it stood out more because this isn’t a straight horror movie?
DJ: Hellbride was great fun to watch, and would be a natural festival hit with a late-night crowd that wanted some good gore and great laughs. It's kind of irrelevant that it's largely a romantic comedy because it's unlikely to reach the target audience of that genre. It’s a solid entry on Pat Higgins’ CV, but not his crowning glory… that accolade is still reserved for KillerKiller in my mind.
Audio, video and special features not rated as this was a cinema screening