Monday, October 19, 2020

Helstrom: Mother's Little Helpers (Ep. 1.01)


Let's have a little context before I get into this, shall we?

Helstrom is a Marvel property. No, Marvel does not have their name attached to it. Horror is not what Marvel is known for, especially not these days with their bright and shiny super heroes having so much success. Marvel has never been exactly successful with doing horror in their comics. We can call it being a victim of their own success.

Marvel's well-defined universe and tight continuity never left a lot of room for horror. When you reduce hell to just another dimension, it takes the horror out of the evil. Lots of things are evil, after all (just look at the current administration).

I don't have a lot of knowledge about the origins of Daimon Helstrom in the comics (and I'm only, on purpose, going to go off of the knowledge I already have, pre-research, because most people won't have a clue about the character at all). I know that in his early iterations he was known as the "Son of Satan," or some such. I don't know if it was literally supposed to be Satan or not, and it doesn't really matter. Helstrom was a character who never really caught on. Which brings us up to the 90s...

The 90s brought us a new surge of horror in comics, something that had been absent, on the whole, for more than a decade at least. Marvel brought Ghost Rider back and, with him, a slew of "supernatural" beings and DC had The Sandman and Hellblazer and, then, the whole Vertigo thing. But, see, Ghost Rider, at its core, was still a super hero comic and so were all of the related titles that came after. Marvel wanted to get its feet into the horror genre and, so, they brought back Hellstrom. The comic was called, completely unironically, Hellstorm.

I have that series, probably the whole run. I don't remember it very well other than that I thought it was pretty good... at first... until it became what Marvel does: a superhero book. The art was dark and atmospheric, but Marvel just didn't have a grip on horror and how to cling to it. Their universe was too established and nothing was what we think of as "supernatural," except in the very literal definition of the word. The series didn't last and Daimon Helstrom faded back into obscurity.

That was then. I have no idea what's going on in comic books these days, so maybe he has a new series to accompany his new TV show. Yeah, I could look it up, but I try to keep my nose as much away from comics as I can, because I can't afford to get sucked back into them, not until I get rid of a buttload of the ones I already have. Look, if you saw my garage, you'd understand.

Let's just say that I was completely surprised when I saw this was coming out on Hulu and more surprised not to see Marvel's name attached to it. Because it is Marvel's Helstrom, not just Hulu stealing the name. But see, Marvel isn't known for horror or for shows with mature content, which this show is full of. You can't have a bunch of six-year-olds watching a show like this after being allowed by unsuspecting parents because it said "Marvel." Also, it gives Marvel a chance to test the waters in the horror genre again, in TV this time.

And this is an interesting thing because DC, who has always had a better handle on horror, has been failing with their darker shows the last few years. Hellblazer didn't last a season. Preacher... well, I don't know exactly what to say about Preacher. It's dark but it doesn't really get to horror. It's just vampires and gore and stuff. What I'm saying is that DC has been struggling in an area they have traditionally been much better at than Marvel, but, then, DC is just struggling. I bet they have a lot riding on this new Sandman series that just went into production.

So if this new Helstrom TV show does well...? Who knows. Maybe we'll get some dark, supernatural stuff integrated into the MCU, which would be an interesting ride if they can pull it off.

And if the first episode, "Mother's Little Helpers," of this new series is any indication, they will pull it off. It had me from the opening, which I'm going to spoil here, but it's, like, the first 10 minutes, maybe, of the episode, so I'm not going to feel bad about that.

We open with Daimon and some nun going to a house to perform an exorcism. Daimon is not happy and, from later context, we come to understand that he feels like his time is being wasted by the Catholic church and this nun in particular. They, the church, don't understand demonic powers and keep sending Helstrom to deal with things like this exorcism of a possessed boy.

So Daimon, after a quick trip to the bathroom, goes alone up to the boy's room without even a Bible or a crucifix, something which seems to be unsettling to the parents but, then, the mother is sitting at the dining table getting drunk, so who know. The boy in question comes scuttling out from under his bed spewing Latin when Daimon enters the room. The walls of the bedroom are smeared with shit, the boy's shit, and the kid goes off on how his parents aren't even worth that much.

Daimon pulls out a vial, tells the boy it's holy water straight from the Vatican, and flings it on him. The kid goes into convulsions... which is when Daimon tells him that he stopped in the bathroom for the water on the way to the kid's room, but not water from the toilet, because he's not that bad. Which is the point I was hooked on the show. Helstrom demonstrates some actual supernatural power and tells the boy to clean the shit up, literally, and to use bleach.

The boy was faking, just to be clear.

Pretty great opening for a show of this nature, I thought.

I'm two episodes in, and I think it's going to be a good series. It's doing what Marvel is good at: building a story. It's slow and brooding, so far, while still having plenty of action. It just doesn't have that rushed feeling that so much of the stuff from DC has. I did consider doing reviews for each episode, but I've decided against that. After watching the second episode, I couldn't decide what I'd talk about other than giving a synopsis, and you can get that from imdb. I'll probably re-visit the series when I finish the first season, and, no, I have no idea how long that will take. Even if I make it a priority. I could finish it before the end of the month (preferred) or, with me, I could still be working on season one next October. I guess we'll just see.

If you're looking for a good skin-crawling horror show for October, from what I've seen so far, this could be your thing.


  1. Hmm. I haven't heard of this show but may need to check it out. It sounds refreshing to not have a reinvention of Hell or horror concepts into Urban fantasy. I've seen too much of that. From Anita Blake to Dresden Files to Sabrina. There's so much "Look at me, I'm clever, and can fit Satan into a modern setting that makes sense along with all the other things you've heard about since childhood!"

    1. Michael: We'll have to see how it develops. I am only two episodes in.

  2. I hadn't heard of this property before hearing about the show--I didn't even know it was Marvel until you said so. But of course I don't have Hulu and don't know anyone who does right now.