Justin Andrew Davis, Leslie Lynn Meeker, Steven Trolinger, Ashley Kelley, Timothy J. Cox
Lorenzo Cabello, Shayne Kamat
"Hell-Bent" Never Quite Gels Into a Cohesive Short
There are these awkward times as a film critic, especially being one who focuses on indie projects, when a film simply doesn't click. It doesn't mean it's an awful film. It doesn't mean it's not worthy of your attention. Heck, it doesn't even mean I'm necessarily right. Sometimes, I simply arrive at the end of a film and think to myself "Nope. It didn't work."
Such was the case with Hell-Bent, a "short" on the lengthier end of what it means to be a short at nearly 27 minutes in length about Michael (Justin Andrew Davis), an under-achieving writer for Brimstone Magazine whose boss (Timothy J. Cox) announces an opportunity for a promotion dependent upon article submissions for an upcoming issue of the magazine. When the magazine's elderly secretary, Agatha (Leslie Lynn Meeker). reveals that she likes to summon a demon, Ricky (Steven Trolinger), for company, Michael decides that this is the perfect opportunity to snag that promotion out of the hands of Beth (Ashley Kelley), an attractive and arguably more accomplished writer.
Having already received some positive kudos amongst my journalistic peers, there's no question there's an audience for Hell-Bent, for me it felt formulaic and never elicited a single laugh despite being labeled as a dark comedy. It felt like a wannabe Lo, a similarly themed film from Travis Betz that was darker and funnier and more effective.
This doesn't mean, of course, that Hell-Bent isn't worthy of your time. Leslie Lynn Meeker, in particular, is an absolute joy in wisely underplaying Agatha, whose affect as a sweet little ole' lady serves as a sharp contrast to her demon summoning skills and relaxed rapport with the matter-of-fact Ricky.
At nearly 27 minutes, Hell-Bent felt a tad too long for me with scenes that dragged out longer than they were necessary. I could easily see Hell-Bent being a tighter, darker and funnier 20-22 minute short.
Directed by Foster Vernon, Hell-Bent is just getting started on its festival run where you can decide for yourself how the film works for you. Despite my own reservations, I can see a place for the film on the indie/microcinema circuit and you can find out more about the film on its Facebook page linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic