Set in the 1980s, somewhere around Christmas, Hellblazers is yet another original offering from Tubi, at least in some territories. Writer/director Justin Lee (Apache Junction, Hunters) isn’t exactly somebody I expect a good film from, but even he can’t go wrong with a cast that includes Tony Todd (The Reenactment, Stoker Hills), Billy Zane (The Believer, Ghosts of War), Bruce Dern (Last Shoot Out, Death in Texas), Adrienne Barbeau (Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, Hoax) and a few other genre vets, can he?
Wheelchair-bound Nam vet Bill Unger (Bruce Dern) is out visiting his wife’s grave when he hears something in the woods. He rolls over to the edge of the trees just in time to see Joshua (Billy Zane) and his followers toss someone in a flaming pit, and a demon climbs out. As he aptly puts it, “We’ve got a big problem”.
Of course, nobody believes Bill when he comes into town to report it. But then the new Sheriff, Joe Anderson (Ed Morrone, Final Kill, Waking Up Dead) starts asking questions and turns up a missing person report. Then his deputy Teddy (Crash Buist, The Thing Before the Thing, End of the World) sees a couple of robed figures in a field near the paperboy’s bloodstained bike.
Despite a lack of demonic doings after the opening scenes, the first half-hour of Hellblazers is somewhat amusing as we’re introduced to several of the film’s cliche, or iconic if you prefer, characters. The crusty, not all there Nam veteran, the big city cop relocated to a small town, the deputy who’s dating the cute waitress (Danielle Gross, Final Kill, Heels). And while the character isn’t a cliche, having Adrienne Barbeau playing a rural DJ is getting to be one.
The half-hour mark is the turning point however as, speaking of cliches, something attacks a couple making out in the woods. Then the cultists come for Bill, the phones go dead, we even get a demonic transformation. And the sun hasn’t even set yet.
Hellblazers is like VFW with the battleground expanded a bit and the drug “mutants” replaced with a satanic cult and their pet demon. It’s a group of aging genre vets taking a stand and proving they can still kick some serious ass. And even at 68 Tony Todd still swings a mean sledgehammer.
With a fairly big cast, which also includes Meg Foster (Investigation 13, Masters of the Universe), Courtney Gains (Children of the Corn, Camp Cold Brook), John Kassir (Tales from the Crypt’s Crypt Keeper) and Mike Ferguson (Amityville Uprising, Triassic Hunt) Hellblazers can run up a good body count. But, as with most Tubi Originals, the gore is kept to a minimum. Even a hand grenade doesn’t leave a mess when it goes off. Instead, we get jokes like the sheriff referencing Cujo and Halloween’s Michael Myers and nobody knowing what he’s talking about.
What effects Hellblazers does have are mostly the demon itself, and we don’t see much of him. The scenes of him emerging from the pit are CGI, but most of the time it’s Sanford Worth in a nice mask attached to a badly fitting suit. The same with other effects, there is some practical blood, but the blood spray, as well as explosions, are obvious CGI.
As with Steven R. Monroe and his Tubi Original Unborn, Lee surprised me by coming up with a solid film. But, as was also the case with that film, Hellblazers didn’t blow me away either. However, it’s an enjoyable film from a director I wasn’t expecting it from on a streaming platform not known for producing them. I can’t complain about that.