Hellbender continues Wonder Wheel’s family movie success story

It can be helpful to refer to movies in terms of “good” or “bad,” but those terms are so subjective that they’re often not helpful. A well-crafted production that makes no technical mistakes could be utter, unrepentant, mean-spirited trash. A film that uses the same .gif-level animated effects recycled a million times and a cast of clearly amateur actors could, by virtue of the enthusiasm and dedication of its creators, be an unforgettable masterpiece. There are types good movies and bad movies, and they depend a lot on your willingness to meet the movie and the filmmakers halfway through. You can certainly make concessions if an indie feature has, say, a ho-hum script. You can understand if a small stable of actors lack range or fall into the cast of multiple movies. Whether the lighting, sound, shot composition, score, or an incidental element of the production design (a scary witch’s grimoire, or a song sung by the film’s protagonists, or the paintings that an eccentric cat burglar leaves behind when he robs houses so he can justify he’s not stealing, or the mask his elementary school partner in crafting the crime for him) is not at the level of a Hollywood production, you could try to suspend disbelief. If the movie lacks fancy visual effects or interesting makeup or costume design, you can definitely imagine how difficult it can be to accomplish this sort of thing yourself and give it a pass. But if you make an honest effort to do it and get something out of it – if the filmmakers managed to speak to you on some level and convey something to you – it can’t be that bad, right?


master of hellthe sixth feature film from Wonder Wheel Productions and the immediate sequel to its latest horror entry, The Exceptional The deeper you dig, demands no grace from the viewer. Both are damn good horror movies in every possible way. It is all the more astonishing that, like all those who have written on master of hell was sure to note that it’s almost entirely the work of a single household in upstate New York, with only a few other cast members added. In just two feature films, the (perfect) Adams family have become notable names in horror.


spoiler-warning-new.jpg

(Note: Beware of spoilers for master of hell and The deeper you dig.)

Husband John Adams, wife Toby Poser, along with their daughters Zelda and Lulu Adams, direct, star in, shoot, edit and even score the films, starting with the 2012 road trip drama Rumble strips. There are definitely benefits to having close relationships with your artistic collaborators, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that a decade after their endeavors began, the family business has improved. It’s just that it’s improved many and with master of hellit feels like Wonder Wheel has found its genre.

The second feature of Wonder Wheel, KnuckleJack, is a sweet story of Jack (John Adams) whose only stream of income is pawning the items he steals from homes. As he explains to his young niece (Zelda Adams), the reason he hangs the paintings he creates drunk every night in the homes of the people he robs is because he’s not not flightIt is sell his art. (She’s not convinced, but insists that if he wants to be a thief, he needs a mask – she makes him one that’s both a bit scary but presumably designed by a child) . Between trying to overcome his addictions and becoming someone trustworthy, Jack can’t seem to avoid the woman (Poser) he traded sex and money for substances with.

It’s a cute movie, and the actors leverage their real-life relationships to put on naturalistic performances. Throughout there are some interesting shot compositions, clever directing choices. Compare all this with The deeper you digwhere Poser and Zelda Adams are again cast as mother and daughter, but John Adams is cast as the drunk driver who runs over the daughter of a penny ante tarot card reader who, it turns out, might know a lot more about the veil between our world and the beyond that she reveals to her bereaved marks.

As with their earlier characteristics, the family relationship in The deeper you dig is one of the strongest things to recommend it: Poser finds himself in the position of a grief-stricken loved one, ready to turn to ungodly methods just for a word with his daughter, and a major theme is l adopted by the ghost of Zelda Adams from that of her mother. occult powers in order to exact his fearsome revenge. It’s a tight storyline made unforgettable by some truly unnerving uses of costumes, makeup, and other practical effects in the service of unforgettable scenes.


Deeper-you-dig.jpg

As the first foray into all-out horror, it really feels like the filmmakers are seizing their calling. As the fifth film they’ve made together, it’s nothing like their first work, with each actor doing completely different things. As a supernatural horror revenge story that plays on themes of loss and the inability to deal with it, it’s perfectly at home in conversations on topics such as We are always here, A restless grave Where Koko-di Koko-da.

With master of hell, Poser and Zelda Adams return as another mother-daughter duo bound by supernatural power, but it’s an order of magnitude darker than their last film. The two live alone on a mountain, the girl was never allowed to come into contact with the outside world. They do their face makeup and swing around their house in front of an audience of no one. (Of course, the tracks are in fact featuring the two, because the real Adams family also has a band, “H6LLB6ND6R”, because I’m sure they need to fill all their free time somehow.) John Adams appears in a quick role as a hitchhiker who is sadly unaware of why no one should ever want to meet young Izzy and her mother. (Poser uses her super witch powers to crush him immediately.)

The story tells of a daughter born from the protective influence of her family, discovering a fearsome power within herself and assuming a role of power over her mother. Zelda’s real-life sister, Lulu Adams, appears as the girl’s first real-life friend and someone who quickly becomes a victim of her intense transformation. As a usurpation story of her elders, it’s one of the few I can think of that focuses on a mother-daughter relationship rather than a father-son relationship, and if it’s true that she benefits immensely from the actual relationship the actors have, it’s by no means the only thing on offer. There are themes that resonate, imagery that stays with you, and plenty of gory, bloody spectacle for horror fans.

I’ve said before that it’s really exciting to see the style of talented designers grow over successive projects, and master of hell is another great example. If the Adams have made horror their specialty and continue to push forward with that level of artistry and discipline, we have plenty of stories with chilling and intimate storylines. fucking buckets of blood wait, indeed.



Kenneth Lowe clipped his claws and broke his teeth and buried the wolf deep below. You can follow him on Twitter and find out more on his blog.