Hell-Bent (2016): Writing Can be Hell (Review)

poster for Hell-Bent

Written by Lorenzo Cabello  and Shayne Kamat (who also edited the film) and directed by  first time helmsman Foster Vernon, “Hell-Bent”  is a 2016 short comedy about writing, Hell and the business of producing articles for a living. It is also about co-workers, a demon and  having faith in one’s own talents. 

MIchael (Justin Andrew Davis) is the quietest member of the writing staff at Brimstone Magazine. The publication  is run by Mr. Bowers (played by character actor Timothy J. Cox who delivers above and beyond, as usual) who wants to elevate the type of story the magazine normally runs. 

Bower’s starts a completion. Who ever writes the lead story will also get a promotion. The staff “bad girl” Beth (Ashley Kelley) immediately starts battering the competition (Michael) and later a chance meeting with receptionist Agatha (Leslie Lynn Meeker) changes things for Michael. 

He meets Agatha’s buddy Ricky (Steven Trolinger) who just happens to be a demon. The horned chap is irreverent, not overly pleasant and prone to practical jokes.  Ricky is also moved to help Michael in his quest by the very idea of a competition. It seems that Demons cannot resist a challenge of any type. 

This student film looks good. The framing is spot on and director Vernon is not afraid to keep the scoring minimal. In many of the dialogue heavy scenes there is a lack of music which allows the conversation to be the highlight. Where music is used to set the mood it is not intrusive.  Kamat does a fine job editing although there is a bit with the article in the car park that could have used a little something.

In the film’s story Michael has a total lack of confidence in his abilities and it is Abigail and her personal demon Ricky who help  him find his inner writer.

In terms of casting, Trolinger is funny as Ricky (who is a bit of a putz) and he manages to channel a more benevolent type of “Beetlejuice” character and makes his demon oddly likable.  Meeker is entertaining as the eccentric receptionist who goes to church while summoning demons and Kelly is infinitely unlikable as the competitive and manipulator who wants to succeed.

At just over 26 minutes, the film moves at a good pace and is full of humorous contradictory moments. Abigail coming out of the church and telling off Ricky who is waiting for her and having a “Last Supper” picture on her wall at home.  Other comedy moments are more straight forward. The blood “sacrifice” being an excellent example.

Ricky: “What the f**k is the matter with you??”

The message of “Hell-Bent” may just be that nice guys do not necessarily finish last; it all depends on who their friends are. It also points out that writing can be hell even if one has a demon to lend a helping hand.

The film is a 4 out of 5 star short film that should be lengthened and elaborated on. A great glimpse of an interesting comedic look at work and one’s colleagues. It also sheds light on a process that can be frustrating and not a little time consuming.

This student film is a cracking little project that may not make you laugh out loud, but it will make you chuckle. Catch it if you can.

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