Review by C.J. Bunce
Prime viewing for October and the Halloween season, and a movie you probably skipped in the theater, is the rebooted Hellboy, now on home video. Far better than critics would have led you to believe, director Neil Marshall′s Hellboy is every bit loyal to the Dark Horse Comics character, stories, and mythos. Both Mike Mignola and Mike Richardson produced this third film in the series, and if you don’t agree it matches the quality of the first Hellboy you’ll likely agree it’s better and more memorable than its sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
In fact this Hellboy–this time with Stranger Things’ David Harbour in the red, sawed-off horns and hammer arm–is that kind of dark, violent, monster movie that would have appealed to fans of Freddy Krueger or Hellraiser in the 1980s. It has that same kind of hard R rating that would have prompted 12 to 16-year-old boys to sneak into the theater to see what they were missing. So if you don’t care for the kind of monster movie with innocent victims getting ripped apart by giant demons, re-stitching a witch together, watching another creepy witch and her cauldron of kid stew, and making it through several blood-bursts and beheadings, backed with a never-ending volley of F bombs, by all means run away now.
This isn’t Ron Perlman’s kinder, gentler demon. But this presentation more closely matches Mignola’s stories, including steeping this tale in a variety of classic lore. Here that means the vile Baba Yaga as villain, complete with her chicken-legged mobile house, and a film full of twisted King Arthur legend.
Missing is Doug Jones’ wonderful Abe Sapien, or Selma Blair’s fire-wielding friend Liz. Trying to make up for that is the booming presence of Ian McShane (Magnum, p.i., Dallas, The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Deadwood) as Hellboy’s father, and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil series, The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet) as a banished witch trying to return to the present to smite out humanity with a plague. Both McShane and Jovovich are good in anything, as they are here, even when the special effects aren’t up to that Peter Jackson quality we all hope for.
But some of the best scenes incorporate CGI, including Hellboy going full Hellboy mode, brandishing a familiar sword and conquering baddies much like a video game experience. The CGI Baba Yaga is as scary and grotesque a monster as anything you’ve seen before.
Lesser but adequate contributions come from Hellboy agent pals Alice (Sasha Lane) and Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim). Writer Andrew Cosby just doesn’t give them much to do. Both Kim and Stephen Graham as the voice of Jovovich’s porcine henchman Gruagach, plus the voices of Harbour and McShane would really make for a solid animated Hellboy movie. See if you can spot Thomas Haden Church in a cameo as Lobster Johnson, and master makeup artist Joel Harlow as Von Krupt.
It may be this was simply a darker, bloodier, and gorier, less cartoony Hellboy than audiences were looking for. Still, fans of 1980s horror will probably find this movie at least worthy of two hours of more Hellboy time.
Hellboy is now streaming on Vudu and other streaming platforms, and available on digital, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K here at Amazon.