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Friday, October 16, 2020

[Review] Hulu’s “Helstrom” Gives Superhero Twist to Standard Action-Horror Exorcism Story

Though loosely based on Marvel comics characters, Hulu’s Helstrom eschews any connection to the MCU, wanting to stand alone as a horror series more in line with the CW’s early aughts output. If you’re sad that Supernatural is winding down, Helstrom seeks to fill that void with a new pair of demon-slaying siblings. Except, instead of the former’s affable charm, the latter offers a team of brooding, unhappy siblings, cliched possession tropes, and worldbuilding that’s not near as expansive as it thinks. At least in the first five episodes screened for critics.

Helstrom introduces us to Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana (Sydney Lemmon) Helstrom, estranged siblings with unique psychic abilities thanks to their intimate connection with the demon world. The pair grew up separately after tragedy befell their family, meaning the two drifted apart in geographical location and personality. The prickly and guarded Daimon is an ethics professor by day and an exorcist by night. A couple of states away, Ana lives a more lavish life as an auction house owner, but her favorite hobby is using her gift to track and murder humanity’s most vile. When demonic activity seems to be increasing at an alarming rate and their long-possessed mother, Victoria (Elizabeth Marvel), indicates a plot may be afoot involving their long-dead demon dad, the duo reunites. They might be the only ones to save humanity from the hell that’s coming.

In trying so hard to scrub the MCU clean from this series’ DNA, showrunner and creator Paul Zbyszewski instead leans into the standard tropes of possession-based horror. This plays out in the way humans are possessed and the subsequent expulsions of the demons, but the most prominent trope is the ongoing mystery involving demonic conspiracy. The monsters have a plan to take over the world, and many of the clues include conversations in padded cells with a long-possessed woman bearing all the physical traits made famous by The Exorcist. Of course, you can count on the Vatican to be involved on some level, too. How intertwined they are to the core storyline remains secretive, but they send supporting character Gabriella Rosetti (Ariana Guerra) to serve as Daimon’s partner. Mostly, though, she’s the audience proxy meant to guide us through this world of demons.

While the Satanic plot drives the story forward, so too does the sibling relationship. Both are brooding adults bearing a lot of emotional scars and trauma from their youth, so their connections and friendships are minimal at best. Daimon manages to be the softer sibling of the pair, with Ana reveling in her murderous ways. While brother seeks to mend his broken connection, he takes issue with the ethics of his sister’s behavior. Their interactions do present the most interesting aspect of this series thus far. It helps that Lemmon’s performance livens up an otherwise dour series.

In keeping the family incident that broke them so close to the vest, and the Satanic plot yet to be fully presented, the worldbuilding remains superficial at best. There’s a lot of elements introduced, but not in a cohesive way. Among the first half, expect a lot of exposition but no real identity. The show changes depending on need; sometimes, it teases Indiana Jones-style adventure, sometimes it’s a police procedural, and sometimes it’s your generic monster of the week show with a superpowered twist. Always, though, it’s by the numbers.

It’s nice that Helstrom bypasses the requisite Marvel setup that sees its burgeoning superheroes struggle to learn their unique gifts before saving the world. When we meet Daimon and Ana, they’re quite comfortable with their abilities. Instead, the series falls back on standard possession horror with Satanic conspiracy, complete with fledgling Vatican agents, padded cell theatrics, and familiar exorcist clichés. It’s moody and ominous but superficially. There are glimpses of something more compelling buried in the usual, but the show hasn’t found its footing or identity yet. So far, it’s just a basic superhero twist applied to exorcism action-horror.

The 10-episode first season of Helstrom is now on Hulu.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3636933/tv-review-hulus-helstrom-gives-superhero-twist-standard-exorcism-action-horror-story/

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