Movie Review: High School and its aftermath are hell for one alumna of “HELLmington”

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A “big city” cop comes home to visit her dying father and is drawn into a mystery that dates from her high school days in “HELLmington,” a moody, well-acted but generally inconsequential thriller in the occult subgenre.

If it holds your interest, thank the cast and the tone. If it disappoints here and there, and features an utterly botched and obvious ending, well you lose some and you win some.

Nicola Correia-Damude of “The Strain” and “Shadowhunters” is Sam Woodhouse, summoned home by her police chief Uncle Rupert (horror legend Michael Ironside) because her retired prison-guard dad is dying.

Sam is on medication, is estranged from her father and is carrying around something with her other than a badge. Dad (Andre Bussieres) blurts out “KATIE OWENS” as his dying words. Maybe that’s a clue.

Samantha certainly thinks so. Katie was a classmate she had a big beef with nine years before. Katie disappeared. Somebody knows something, and apparently that somebody wasn’t Sam, who had left town.

So she starts asking around. And she wonders about her meds, because she was sure she saw a hooded figure wearing a ram’s head in the hospital as her father was passing.

She catches a glimpse of such a figure again when she visits the one-time prime suspect (Munro Chambers), a squirrelly sort who lives in a house in the woods who, like everybody else in HELLmington, offers Sam a drink.

“Not every woman I’m with disappears!”

Sam pulls the file, digs, wonders about the death of Katie’s father, a prison guard like her own, and puzzles over what was eating at her old man so much that he blurts this missing woman’s name out on his deathbed.

Filmmakers Jay Drakulic and Alex Lee Williams (of TV’s “#VitalSignz”) pepper the script with “Twin Peaks” eccentrics. There’s the occult expert professor (Yannick Bisson) who moonlights as a taxidermist (stuffed critters are everywhere). Maybe he can make sense of these symbols, these mysterious “Revennians” Katie might have gotten herself mixed up with.

Oh, and Rupert is a customer in his other business.

“You tell your uncle his pickerel’s ready!”

Sam interrupts the quirky motel clerk (Shannon McDonough) as she’s doing her online German lessons, interrupts her again when an occult symbol is drawn on her motel room wall — in feces — and gets her attention a third time after Sam fights off a murderous intruder.

Flashbacks and archived video files (HELLmington High School, class of ’99) fill in some of the mystery. They introduce more suspects, more intrigue. And Correia-Damude is an interesting enough presence that it would have been intriguing to see this play out as a simpler police procedural.

As it is, the plot lost me, here and there. And as I said, the ending is one of those story elements every character in “It Chapter Two” ridicules when they’re talking about the writings of novelist Bill (James McAvoy). It sucks in a total cop-out kind of way.

It’s never more than occasionally creepy even if it holds one’s interest long enough to complain about that ending.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, substance abuse, nudity

Cast: Nicola Correia-Damude, Michael Ironside, Gabe Grey, Angelica Stirpe, Yannick Bisson Michael Ironside,

Credits: Written and directed by Alex Lee Williams and Jay Drakulic. An Uncork’d Entertainment release.

Running tine: 1:23

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