A Uneven Mix of Comedy and Horror Leaves Hellbenders Feeling More Unsettling Than Fun


A clever twist on the exorcism genre fails to pan out in this ambitious but uneven horror-comedy. When an exorcism goes awry, the Catholic Church calls on the Hellbound Saints of Brooklyn Parish, a team of six priests who spend their days getting “damnation ready.”

Boozers, dopers, and sex fiends, each is willing to commit suicide if that’s what it takes to yank a given demon straight down to Hell. For a while, writer-director J.T. Petty and his cast, headed by veteran character actors Clancy Brown and Clifton Collins Jr., exult in the joke of debauchery-lovin’ priests, but after an ancient Norse god is set loose on the world, the film gradually tilts toward full-on horror. Aided by capable if unnecessary 3D effects, Petty displays a flair for staging violent action, but he’s trapped inside a broad comic set-up that doesn’t mesh with the story’s innate meanness.

That Norse god, for example, has been living inside a physically challenged child who’s been chained in a basement for 30 years, a setting and circumstance so grisly and unpleasant that not even the Ghostbusters of yore could find a joke to crack.