Many fans have mourned that Guillermo del Toro never got to finish his Hellboy trilogy, but after requesting a budget that no studio was willing to finance, the Right Hand of Doom is back in a new guise. This new Hellboy sees director Neil Marshall take over the reigns, with the film drawing inspiration from a wide number of Hellboy stories. Meanwhile David Harbour takes over duties playing the titular monster hunter.
If you are hoping for something like the del Toro adaptations then you will probably wind up being sorely disappointed. Unlike del Toro’s approach, which drew heavily from the fantasy elements of the stories, Marshall’s adaptation instead dives head first into the horror aspects of Hellboy’s law. Marshall truly embraces this, with the film reveling in over the top blood and gore. Now this isn’t Saw like levels of gratuitous torture, but more reminiscent of the like of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise, or some of Peter Jackson’s “splatstick” horror films such as Braindead.
The story that they choose to tell is one where Hellboy must face off against Nimue, The Blood Queen. Nimue is an ancient medieval British sorceress with ties to King Arthur, a crucial figure in Hellboy’s mythology for fans of the comics. On top of facing the Blood Queen, we also dive into Hellboy’s origins, his interactions with the Baba Yaga, and even the ‘Hellboy in Mexico’ storyline. It is all far to much, as the film’s plot is an absolutely jumbled mess that barely gives you a minute to breath as a viewer. This is a far cry from del Toro’s tight and slower paced films that really allow you to dive into the character. What moments we do get to learn more about Hellboy just tend to retread ground from the 2008 film Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
But for it’s messiness this is a hell of a good time for the sheer insanity, and Marshall’s willingness to embrace some of the more truly out there horror fantasy aspects of the Hellboy mythos. The film is also genuinely funny at plenty of moment, something that is really championed by Harbour as Hellboy. Ron Perlman was always going to leave big boots to fill, but Harbour does a sterling job. It will be hard for anyone to ever top Perlman, but Harbour is a good start.
Ian McShane is a very different Trevor Bruttenholm that John Hurt was. Colder and harder, and more distant father that makes Hellboy’s troubled relationship with him far more understandable. Joining the supporting cast are Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan and Daniel Dae Kim as Daimio. Both are really good, and alongside Hellboy make a great set of leads who are all very different and bring very different perspectives to what they must do.
Whilst I certainly cannot tell you that Hellboy is a good film, the story and script are an absolute incomprehensible mess, with everything thrown at it. But if you can get on board with a more over the top horror based Hellboy adaptation there is a lot of fun to be had with the insanity.