Movie Night: Hellboy (2019)

I actually purchased this movie on iTunes a long time ago (I think because it was on sale for under $5), but never really got around to watching it until just the other night (for Halloween, actually!). I was initially attracted to the premise because of the success of the earlier Hellboy movies starring Ron Perlman, and the promise of gore and violence to excess. I didn’t really know who David Harbour was (still don’t, if I’m being honest), and I knew it wasn’t well-received, but I thought perhaps it would be one of those entertainingly bad movies, at least.

It turned out to be the first movie in a very, very long time that I actually stopped watching halfway through, and have absolutely no desire to finish. Violence and gore is about all it has going for it – and even then, it’s tainted by poor CGI and prop/sets that appear to outright defy the laws of physics.

Essentially – from what I gathered in the first thirty minutes or so – Hellboy is on earth, part of some society of folks that go around dealing with monsters and demons and preventing them from wreaking havoc in the world. We’re treated to a dreadful opening flashback in which Milla Jovovich is gorily skewered and decapitated because she’s some kind of evil blood queen (this doesn’t appear to kill her, interestingly enough), before returning to present-day in which Hellboy fights an old friend-turned-vampire in a Mexican boxing ring, before being despatched to England to deal with some giants. (Yes – this is the opening of the film.)

From here, he is swiftly betrayed by the giant hunters in England, though we don’t learn why as they are themselves swiftly decimated by the giants themselves. Hellboy wakes up some time later only to take on the giants and destroy them with what seems like reckless ease, only to then pass out (I guess from the exertion of destroying giants?) and wakes up in some girl’s flat and that’s when I was just like nope – this is making zero sense whatsoever. (All the while, Jovovich’s character is being reassembled from her severed body parts found across the land by her demon-slaves, or something.) Again, this is the first thirty minutes of a two-hour movie.

This movie is literally a disaster. From the pacing to the dialogue to the shoddy CGI and ham-fisted plot, there is just … just no redeeming this abomination of cinema. At one point Hellboy swings a sword four times his own height into a giant’s skull, parting it almost completely and showering the viewer in CGI blood that looks like nothing more than melted plastic, or the blood effects of a 2005-era video game. In the same sequence, he skewers another giant with a tree. A literal tree. And yet tasers seem to incapacitate him fairly easily.

I don’t know. I think it’s a shame, really, because there was potential here; the opening boxing ring sequence wasn’t bad, and it wastes great talent such as Ian McShane (Winston from John Wick, or Blackbeard from Pirates of the Caribbean) on ancillary roles with absolutely no meaningful dialogue. It’s boring, predictable, and worst of all, has zero structure that sets up conflict. It’s rushed, too; along with everything else described, we also learn (in the same first thirty minutes) that Hellboy was raised from hell as a child demon, and taken in by Ian McShane’s character to raise as a son … because that also just makes so much sense.

Anyway, there’s really not much else to say about this film, other than save yourself the rental fee – or at least the time out of your life – and watch something better. Almost any other movie on earth is more worth your time than this disaster.

★☆☆☆☆

New Music Is Available!

So … when I’m not writing, it seems, I’m writing music. Whilst The Redemption of Erâth has been on pause for a few months, I’ve been revisiting some music I created between 2019 and 2021 – an album of symphonic metal called Despair.

Recently, I upgraded the orchestral sample libraries I use, and re-recorded all five tracks of the album using EastWest’s phenomenal samples and sound engine. Whilst the final result may not sound exactly like a live orchestra, it’s (in my mind, at least) pretty damn close.

So without further ado, I present to you: Despair, a suite of orchestral heavy metal in five parts, channeling the deepest, darkest emotions of human nature!

1: Depression

Depression is the first track from Despair, opening with quiet strings and horns, building to crescendo before the crushing heaviness of the metal band comes crashing in. Segueing to a softer, melodic verse section, things eventually take off with pounding guitars and drums, intertwining a full orchestra through rises and falls until a heavier recapitulation brings us to the outro – soft and quiet again, building into a sudden wall of orchestral noise and a thundering drum punctuation that leaves on a cliffhanger, waiting for the next track.

2: Anger

Bursting in with furious strings and brass, Anger ups the pace and energy tenfold, a full orchestra blasting away until dropping out suddenly to allow for the metal band to take over with churning, grinding riffs. Never giving in to a slower beat, the song carries forward in a kind of scherzo-and-trio format, building to a climax before a middle section that leads again with devastating riffs, before recapitulating to the opening. Finally drawing to close with every instrument at full tilt, Anger is a crushing ode to unbridled fury.

3: Fear

Opening with a rumbling, unsettled bass line, Fear is deliberately the most disjointed piece of the suite, wavering between numerous time and key signatures throughout. There are moments of melody interspersed between longer passages of chromatic atonality, but the overall mood is one of anxiety and unsettled, indescribable fearfulness.

4: Grief

Almost entirely orchestral (the band comes in only briefly at the very climax of the piece), Grief takes us through a journey of pathos and heartbreak, with sweeping strings and devastating horn lines drawing influence from the raw emotion of the greatest of classical composers – Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and more. From the soft, distant opening to the thundering timpani that bring the song to a heaving climax of sadness, Grief will tug at your heartstrings and (hopefully) give you chills at all the rights moments.

5: Despair

The epic conclusion and title track, Despair opens with a hammering timpani roll and huge, crashing chords from the band and full orchestra – nearly a full two minutes of opening to a 20-minute track that winds through many layers of instrumentation before coming to a quiet close halfway-through, only to burst back into life with grand horns and strings sustaining the melody over churning guitar riffs. Through a varied development we finally return to a grand reprise of the opening, announced with a huge gong crash, before moving on to the closing of the song, and the album, with a revisiting of the very opening of Depression, bringing the full album to a close.

When It All Comes Crashing Down

Do you ever have those moments in life where everything seems to come crashing down at once? When both your internal and external world just seem to fail you, and you’re left reeling in the void with nothing to grasp, no frame of reference to center you, and suddenly it seems like you’re free-falling into the pits of despair?

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

I feel that way right now, for a number of reasons, both – as I mentioned above – internal and external. On the personal side, I’m feeling a little let down and disappointed; without going into too much detail, I’d been building myself up for a social event that didn’t turn out the way I expected, and it’s left me feeling depressed and lonely. As I forced myself to put away the drinks and snacks that no one touched, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of it all is; why people put so much effort into things that others just … just really don’t care that much about.

The same could be said of so many things in my life; I pour my blood, sweat and tears into writing stories that no one reads, and those that do often don’t even like. I slave away at my day job, and wonder at the end of each day who would miss me if I just didn’t show up the next. So often I just exist, day-to-day, and I’m left wondering why I bother.

I feel hurt, and disillusioned. And the stresses pile up on top of that. The other day my son was in a car accident (no major injuries, thank goodness), but the stress of dealing with insurance, and repairs, and quotes … I can’t face it. I have a call to make for this that I’ve been postponing for four days. I don’t know where the money’s going to come from if the insurance doesn’t pay out, or what’s going to happen to our premiums.

And then there’s the world, and everything that’s wrong with it.

I’ve spent this entire past week in a vapid stupor, sleeping most of each day away in bed or on the couch, not getting anything done that I wanted or hoped to. It’s been a week off from work – a vacation that didn’t pan out – and I’ve completely squandered it. I go back to work tomorrow, and I don’t want to do that, either.

I was talking to my wife about it, and she sort of threw her hands up and said she’s done all she can. She tried to tell me I should approach it differently, with a different mindset … which feels like the worst advice you can possibly give someone who’s depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, but I don’t think she really understands depression – at least, not the kind I suffer from – and thinks it’s all quite selfish. She said that even when she’s been horribly depressed she never stopped being considerate for others, and it helped bring her out of it.

There is no ”coming out of it”. It doesn’t work like that. Depression literally is a mindset. It’s how you think, not something external that afflicts you – not something that can be cured with the right drugs or therapy. The meds help, certainly – but they’re not the answer. For over twenty years I’ve never been able to explain this to her. The only way for me to come out of this depression is for it to run its natural course, and what I need is not help – I don’t need a fix – I need support to weather it. I need empathy, not sympathy, and I need someone to understand that right now, I’m hurting.

Sometimes I wish people could understand. I wish they could realize that what I need is someone to validate me, to say it’s okay to be depressed, it’s okay to get nothing done for a week or two. Someone to tell me that I’m not worth less because I don’t do things. I feel like sometimes my worth is only ever measured in what I’m able to produce – whether for work, or at home, or in my creative endeavors – and if I don’t – or can’t – produce, then I’m essentially worthless.

And it doesn’t help to tell myself these things, because of course I don’t believe myself. I feel like a fraud, full of shit and lazy – a mentality indoctrinated into me from a very young age.

So here I sit, miserable and depressed, with no one around to tell me it’s going to be okay. And at the end of it all, I know I’ll probably be fine, but it doesn’t help to get through it in the moment.

Damn, I hate myself.