‘The Haunting of Helena’ Updates Tooth Fairy Legend

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Originally called “Fairytale,” “The Haunting of Helena” will be available on VOD tomorrow, June 18, 2013, before a very limited release on June 21, 2013. It’s a generic, mediocre horror flick with a few effective images and some interesting thematic play in the second act that is, sadly, totally underdeveloped. This update of the Tooth Fairy legend takes the familiar and tries to make it terrifying but horrendous dialogue (someone actually says without a hint of irony, “You must leave this house before it’s too late”) and weak performances will aggravate even the most forgiving horror fans.

The beautiful Sophia (Harriet MacMasters-Green) has recently moved to Italy with her daughter Helena (Sabrina Jolie Perez), leaving her father (Jareth J. Merz) behind in Cancun. On the other side of the world, Sophia enters a nightmare. Like SO many girls in horror movies (one could program an entire cable channel with just films about children of single parents who are haunted), Helena begins to act real creepy. When her tooth falls out, coinciding with a horrendous car accident (which is actually very visually striking, hinting at a cool movie to come that never quite arrives), Helena begins to tell mommy that the Tooth Fairy wants teeth.

The Haunting of Helena
The Haunting of Helena
Photo credit: The Collective

It starts simple enough. Sophia finds an old coin under Helena’s pillow that she didn’t leave there. Before you know it, the creepy kid is asking for fellow classmates for their teeth to appease the monster in her closet. Naturally, the first instinct is to dismiss Helena’s visions but when the headmaster ends up dead and Sophia learns the horrendous back story of where they live – a woman had her teeth removed there and was left to die after her husband accused her of cheating – “The Haunting of Helena” kicks into gear.

Sorta. “Helena” is one of those films that’s always in neutral, betraying its low budget by spending an inordinate amount of time on emotional dialogue from its heroine that neither the screenwriting nor the performance can hold. MacMasters-Green is tasked with almost all of the screen time and writer/co-director Christian Bisceglia spends way too much of it in emotional breakdowns. A piece like “The Haunting of Helena” needs to be atmospheric and surreal to work. Biscgelia and his co-director Ascanio Malgarini don’t have the chops for something that complex, playing too much of “Helena” too literally. It’s a shame because the stylistic flourishes like the car chase and a truly disturbing scene in a hallway (see the picture below) hint at what “Helena” could have been.

The Haunting of Helena
The Haunting of Helena
Photo credit: The Collective

In fact, the entire second act hints at it. After a truly shaky start, “Helena” gets its most mileage from the “confusion” act. There’s mental illness in Sophia’s family. Perhaps she or her daughter (or both) are merely going crazy? And the thematic supposition that Sophia could just be cracking under the pressure of single parenthood or that Helena could be scared of her own mother (and using the Tooth Fairy as a substitute fear) makes for some interesting dramatic potential.

That is entirely unfulfilled. Even the most impressive visual imagery dissipates as the final act focuses on an investigation and then a twist, neither of which produce scares or chills. “The Haunting of Helena” isn’t the worst VOD horror movie of the month but it’s just not memorable to stand out in an increasingly crowded field. I remember growing up loving the hunt for the straight-to-DVD flick that really deserved a larger audience and that quest has moved to VOD now with new genre offerings every week. From the same studio as “The Haunting of Helena,” The Collective, “Alyce Kills” was a pleasant surprise. VOD lightning didn’t strike twice in a row here.

“The Haunting of Helena” stars Harriet MacMasters-Green, Sabrina Jolie Perez, and Jareth J. Merz. It was written by Christian Bisceglia and directed by Bisceglia & Ascanio Malgarini. It will be available VOD June 18, 2013 and receive a limited theatrical release on June 21, 2013.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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