It’s desperately hard to criticise an independent film (not “independent” as in major studio, mid level budget, kooky comedy-dramas ala Juno, as the term has somehow come to define, but genuine, grassroots indie cinema – handheld cameras, amateur actors, natural lighting, the works).
Thanks to a budget roughly the equivalent of a bag of Space Raiders, and with practically no professional input whatsoever, these films obviously could never dream of competing with the box office successes of the day and, as such, should not be judged on the same criteria. Besides, getting your own vision on screen, on a shoestring budget, completely separate from even the smallest of studios is incredibly admirable and, as such, any review should be as lenient as possible, purely out of respect, right?
If only it were that simple.
You see, there’s just no getting around it: Hellbride is a terrible film, regardless of artistic integrity.
The brainchild of renowned UK indie horror maestro Pat Higgins, Hellbride tells the story of a cursed wedding ring that creates mass carnage on the wearer’s big day. The ring falls into the hands of stand-up comedian Lee Parker (James Fisher), which he gives on bended knee to his fiancée, Nicole (Rebecca Herod).
All seems well, until Nicole begins to have nocturnal visions of all manner of demons, and she discovers that the ring appears to be permanently attached to her finger. In order to potentially save their lives, and their wedding, the young couple and their close friends must discover the dark history behind the one ring that rules them all and, in the darkness, binds them.
The seeds of a great idea are there, but the execution is shockingly poor. The film verges clumsily between schlock horror, misjudged, sub-Two Pints comedy, and crime thriller (a, frankly, bizarre sub-plot involves Nicole’s father as a notorious gang leader) and, without firmly setting its anchor in either, makes for a very uncomfortable viewing experience, indeed.
Some performances, particularly Rebecca Herod’s knowing turn as Nicole, are surprisingly competent. However, for the most part, the acting stakes are shockingly poor. Again, this isn’t something that should necessarily be held against Hellbride – this being an amateur production, most, if not all, the actors are not professional – but, if it’s even slightly relatable human emotion you’re after, look elsewhere.
With a bigger budget and a cast at least Hollyoaks-level, one hopes that Pat Higgins could go on to create one of the great British horror masterpieces. Judging by Hellbride, though, it seems highly unlikely.
Considering the practically non-existent budget involved in making Hellbride, the disc comes with a surprisingly generous array of bonus features, including a blooper reel, deleted scenes, a brief ‘making of’ documentary, a promotional trailer, and an audio commentary by Pat Higgins. Not a bad haul, considering.
Hellbride will be released on March 29 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.