For a Marvel production, “Helstrom” is by far the strangest one. The show only exists out of contractual obligation and is so bad that Marvel refuses to put its logo with it.
Daimon Helstrom (Tom Austen) must work with his cold, stubborn sister, Ana (Sydney Lemmon), to destroy their demonic father. Along the way, Dr. Louise Hastings (June Carryl) and nun-in-training Gabriella (Ariana Guerra) assist the siblings by meeting with different groups of demon hunters. For a show following demons and siblings with paranormal powers, there’s nothing interesting to hold the audience’s attention. The horror show fails to scare, makes every character feel wooden, comes off as generic and doesn’t take the time to explain any important plot lines.
The show’s dark and dull color palette gives off a gritty and creepy vibe but it instead just comes off as hard to look at. In scenes meant to be tense, it was difficult to see anyone or the objects used to create an unsettling atmosphere. Even in the day time, it’s almost always raining or cloudy just so the show doesn’t accidentally have a bright color that tricks people into thinking it’ll be anything but edgy.
Tonally, the show makes little sense. It tries to balance a war with demons and family drama with two unlikeable characters. Daimon and Ana constantly argue over how to handle their mom Victoria’s (Elizabeth Marvel) possession, with Ana wanting to exorcise despite the risk of killing Victoria. The two argue several times with no change in either’s points. This gets annoying considering it happens for about six episodes.
Along with talking in circles, the show introduces the Blood and the Vatican as demon hunting forces. The Blood chooses to find humans who are possessed and put them into a coma to trap the demon within the body. While this could’ve been an interesting moral discussion, the show railroads the Blood into being bad people with no room for argument after their introduction that attempts to make a controversial argument.
The Vatican pretends they know nothing about groups like the Blood to call in experts like Daimon. Both groups could’ve amounted to something in the story, but a possession occurs every time an interesting idea has the opportunity to be explored since the show has no direction.
Every episode ends on a strange note. Something will be declared that’s meant to be exciting, shocking or dark but then is followed by the credits with a cheerful song. The immediate contrast comes off as jarring and unintentionally funny rather than giving off the creepy feeling that was meant to carry the audience carry on to the next episode.
Powers are never explained or given a scale beyond arbitrary bases. Daimon, Ana and every other demon seem to have telekinesis that’s hardly used, and when it is, there’s no way to tell which person is more powerful since objects fly around or are held still while both entities struggle to gain an advantage.
Despite Daimon and Ana’s ability to exorcise, the plot decides which demons are necessary to move forward and not be banished. Beyond the telekinesis, neither of their powers are really explained or even shown until over halfway through the season. It gets annoying considering how many demons and people aware of the war seem to acknowledge that they’re powerful, but there’s hardly any proof.
If the show renamed its main characters, nobody would notice given how generic everything feels. Despite being based on a Marvel comic in which Daimon is called “the Son of Satan,” there’s no reference to this. None of the characters look close to their comic counterpart, which is a shame. At least then the show could act cheesy to differentiate itself. Without Marvel acknowledging it, “Helstrom” has no identity beyond being another show about people fighting demons.
“Helstrom” lacks personality and fails to make anything interesting throughout the 10 episodes. The very beginning of episode 9 was the only time I felt mildly invested in the show ,but everything that followed dulled me back down to begging the show to be over. I love bad media and Marvel, but this was painful even for me to get through.
Contact Caleb Barbachem at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.