HELSTROM Review: Hulu's Dark Marvel Comics Adaptation Has A Lot Of Potential
Helstrom is set to premiere later this month just in time for Halloween, and while Hulu's Marvel Comics adaptation gets off to a rocky start, it does have potential. Get our take on the first 5 episodes.
The first 5 episodes of Helstrom were made available to critics prior to the show's October 16 premiere.
Hulu's Helstrom is loosely based on the occult adventures of Marvel Comics character Daimon "The Son of Satan" Hellstrom and his sister Satana (shortened to Ana on the show for obvious reasons), and was originally going to tie into a new Ghost Rider series. Both shows were destined to end up being the last remnants of the Jeph Loeb era of "Marvel Television," but when Ghost Rider was scrapped, interest in the more obscure of the two properties waned.
A couple of decent trailers helped, but fans weren't exactly on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the show. So, does Helstrom send Marvel TV out with a bang or a whimper?
This is definitely a big departure for Marvel, leaning heavily into horror and going to some pretty dark places. It's not overly grim or gruesome, but it certainly doesn't shy away from a bit of gore, and touches on disturbing subject matter.
The first episode sets the scene by introducing us to supernatural siblings Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana (Sydney Lemmon) Helstrom, who are the son and daughter of a powerful serial killer (will he turn out to be the man downstairs?) and a very creepy institutionalized mother, Victoria (Elizabeth Marvel). Daimon is an ethics professor by day, but unleashes his dark side as a demon hunter at night. Ana works as an auctioneer, but has also dedicated her evenings to hunting down those who would pray on the weak.
It's an intriguing, if not very original set-up, and things do get off to a bit of a rough start. Austen seems a little out of his depth as a leading man, and while he does grow into his character in the later episodes, he's always outshone by Lemmon as the chilly, alluring Ana. Robert Wisdom and June Carryl offer fine support as ageing demon hunters entrusted with keeping the pair on the right path, but the standout is Elizabeth Marvel, who gives a genuinely unnerving performance as the duo's demonically possessed mother.
Things do improve as each episode uncovers a little more of the mystery surrounding Daimon and Ana's father, and the two attempt to reconcile and deal with the horrors they witnessed as children while taking down various demons. It makes for reasonably engaging viewing, but never really attempts to rise above the trappings of the genre, and it's difficult not to compare it (unfavourably) to much better shows with similar premises.
Occasional flashes of creativity recall FX's superb Legion, but for the most part, Helstrom seems content to drift around the same level as CW fare such as Supernatural or Constantine - minus the sharp humor.
It's always a challenge to review half a season of television, but episode 5 is the best of the bunch by some margin, so we're definitely looking forward to finding out how things wrap up.
Helstrom doesn't really bring anything new to the table, and doesn't even retread old ground in a particularly compelling way. Still, it does have its moments, and the increasing quality of the episodes suggests there's a lot of potential moving forward. You could so worse for a few demonic jumps this Halloween.