Movie Review: Hellaware

Published on October 16th, 2013 in: Art, Comedy, Current Faves, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore


One of the greatest things about Kids in the Hall was the show’s ability to convert the utterly banal into comedy. It requires far more skill to underplay a scene and still get laughs, as the audience imagines a waggling finger pointing at the object of the joke. Hellaware, from writer/director Michael M. Bilandic, achieves this so well it leaves the viewer breathless, both from amusement and admiration. At 75 minutes, Hellaware is expertly paced, wringing the most out of every detail in every scene and each seemingly throwaway secondary character.

Nate (Keith Poulson) is a twenty something would-be artist who claims to be sick of the pretentiousness of the art world. Continually clad in a perfect send up of grunge fashion via Hedi Slimane and Tumblr, Nate spends his time whining, drinking, and snorting coke with his equally disaffected friends Bernadette (Sophia Takal) and Gauguin (Duane Wallace), the latter a mash-up of Dwayne Wayne from A Different World and anyone from In Living Color.

When Nate discovers a white rap rock band called Young Torture Killaz on YouTube, he’s inspired, declaring that it hasn’t been “preapproved by the highbrow elite.” He and Bernadette venture to the cultural desert of Delaware to meet and photograph the band and find out what makes them tick.

Or so it would seem. The subtle shift in attitude the viewer undergoes—first relating to Nate, and then finding him insufferable, and finally, desperately awaiting his comeuppance—is imperceptible until it’s already taken place. This is not a predictable movie and that’s just one of the things that makes it amazing.

Hellaware looks, sounds, and feels so real that it skirts the edges of pure documentary. The acting is superbly nuanced and completely unaffected. If you have spent any length of time in a subculture that relies on the arbitrary nature of good versus bad or what’s cool or uncool (or if you have a degree in film studies), the truth bombs in this movie are going to explode in your face. Hellaware is wickedly, viciously hilarious and flat-out brilliant.

Refocus presents Hellaware FOR FREE at the Revue Cinema in Toronto on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.

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