There’s a point in Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot where a handful of demons get loose on Earth, and the audience can practically hear the film’s special-effects artists rolling up their sleeves and cackling. As the demons tear through crowds of screaming, terrified bystanders, the film breaks down into a bloodbath. Writhing bodies are ripped apart. A man’s face is torn off. Moaning people are skewered on the legs of a walking demon, and heads explode into gushy messes. Why is any of this happening? What in the action that led up to this moment would justify what’s going on? The filmmakers don’t particularly seem to care. It’s enough for them to have gallons of vivid CGI blood spattering the lens, turning the screen into particularly gory death-metal album art for a few vaguely justified moments.
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That sequence is a particularly blatant statement of purpose for Marshall’s Hellboy, but it isn’t the only one. From an introductory wrestling sequence in a Tijuana luchador ring to at least half a dozen other bloody sequences where bodies get hacked, smashed, and reduced to rubbery gobs of meat, the film seems like it was made by people who were honestly frightened the MPAA vetting squad might only watch one sequence, fail to see enough gore, and slap a PG-13 rating on the film. The 2019 Hellboy feels like a metal cover version of Guillermo del Toro’s earlier Hellboy films. Mike Mignola’s source comics give the story the same central characters and basic ideas, but all the action has been ramped up and rushed, taken to extremes that feel like they’re meant to serve a younger, cruder, angrier audience. See More: