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Hellhounds (2013)

Review by Mario Dominick

At a moment in time when the direct-to-video market is being flooded by various indie horrors of the slasher, zombie, creature feature, and torture porn varieties, the number of horror flicks in the art house/surrealist style (with the exception of Jeff Wedding’s A Measure of the Sin) seems to have scaled back as far as what can be readily found on the shelves at WalMart and Family Video.

The late Andy Copp of Dayton, Ohio was a filmmaker who took risks in thinking outside the box of genre clichés where most filmmakers seem to focus their creativity. The result of his efforts were experimental horror efforts like The Mutilation Man and Black Sun, which have developed minor cult followings in the underground film scene.

Recently, Dayton filmmaker Eric Widing took his shot at making an experimental horror feature, one influenced, as mentioned on the back of the DVD cover, by David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man. The result of his effort is Hellhounds, a psychological horror story that launches a hypnotic visual assault on the viewer and twists reality and the fantasy world in ways similar to your most fucked up nightmare.

Ross Graves is an alcoholic and lonely drifter clinging to an increasingly intense existence in a small Ohio town. His actions are driven by a being of a higher spiritual level. He’s besieged by demonic figures and kills people he believes are these demons in disguise. He seeks to do battle with these otherworldly creatures in an ultimate spiritual showdown. The ascension to this higher plain of existence is filled with violence, gore, sex, and various transgressive actions set against a surreal backdrop.

Hellhounds is one of the most original indie features to come along in a good while. Director Eric Widing, along with his inspirations from David Lynch and Stan Brakhage, cites Andy Copp as a big influence on his first feature and the film’s credits include a thoughtful dedication to Andy. The film definitely bears some similarities to The Mutilation Man as well as other films like Eric Stanze’s Ice from the Sun, E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten, and Jamin Winan’s Ink. The cast is headed up by Josh McElfresh and Sonny Burnette and the film also features appearances by indie scream queens Erin R. Ryan (Easter Casket, Babysitter Massacre) and Joni Durian (Haunted House on Sorority Row, The Hornet’s Sting and the Hell It’s Caused). Overall, Hellhounds is a welcome and entertaining breath of fresh air into underground filmmaking that haunts, disturbs, and dazzles and offers a genuinely twisted look at human psychosis.

The DVD of Hellhounds includes a director’s commentary by Eric Widing, a short film by Widing entitled Parasomnia and another short entitled Nightfall and Daybreak, a music video of Forest of Witchery’s “In the Circle of the Pagan Moon,” and a trailer and teaser.

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