Teaser for Hellboy: The Crooked Man brings the low-budget horror vibes

Hellboy: The Crooked Man is based on a 2008 limited series by Mike Mignola and artist Richard Corben.

It has only been a few years since David Harbour starred in the 2019 reboot of the Hellboy film franchise—a critical and box office failure, although Harbour’s performance earned praise. But via Entertainment Weekly, we learned that there’s a new reboot coming our way: Hellboy: The Crooked Man. The project wrapped filming in May and now has a teaser—inexplicably released in 480p [UPDATE: ONE Media posted a higher resolution version, now embedded above]—giving us our first glimpse of star Jack Kesy’s (Claws, Deadpool 2) take on Mike Mignola’s iconic character.

It’s definitely a very different look and vibe from the previous big studio releases. Director Brian Taylor (Crank) is clearly leaning into the low-budget folk horror genre for this, but will fans embrace a bargain-basement Hellboy reboot—even one co-written by Mignola himself?

Mignola based his script on a 2008 Hellboy limited series he created, with artwork by Richard Corben. That story features a younger Hellboy wandering in the Appalachian Mountains in 1958 after “finishing up some stuff down South.” He meets regional native Tom Ferrell, coming home after decades away. When he was young, Tom was initiated as a witch and has returned to atone for that, even though he has never actually practiced magic—apart from a magical “witch-bone” he carries with him.

Tom and Hellboy team up to protect a young witch named Cora from having her soul reaped by the Crooked Man, aided by a blind pastor, the Reverend Watts. The Crooked Man was an 18th-century war profiteer named Jeremiah Witkins. Witkins was hanged for his crimes but returned from Hell and became the resident devil in those parts. Witkins wants Cora’s soul, and he also covets Tom’s witch-bone, but his evil machinations prove to be no match for Hellboy.

Jack Kesy steps into the role of Hellboy, following in the footsteps of Ron Perlman and David Harbour.
Enlarge / Jack Kesy steps into the role of Hellboy, following in the footsteps of Ron Perlman and David Harbour.

Ketchup Entertainment

The new film seems to hew fairly closely to the source material—understandably so given Mignola’s direct involvement. Per the official premise: “In the 1950s, Hellboy and a rookie BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) agent, stranded in rural Appalachia, discover a small community haunted by witches, led by a local devil with a troubling connection to Hellboy’s past: the Crooked Man.”

In addition to Kesy, the cast includes Jefferson White as Tom Ferrell; Adeline Rudolph as rookie BPRD agent Bobbie Jo Song; Joseph Marcell as Reverend Nathaniel Armstrong Watts; Leah McNamara as Effie Kolb; Hannah Margetson as Cora Fisher; and Martin Bassindale in a dual role: Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm, founder and head of the BPRD and Hellboy’s adoptive father, and Jeremiah Witkins, aka the Crooked Man.

The teaser opens with some scenic shots of Appalachia as Hellboy makes ominous comments in a voiceover about “evil” lurking and how the forest “smells like death.” It doesn’t take long for that evil to make itself known, as a levitating woman is bitten by a snake, plagues of insects and other creatures wreak havoc, and Hellboy is assured that “all your friends are gonna die.”  Honestly, I kinda like the folk horror vibe; some of those scenes look hella scary. Tonally, the teaser feels a bit like The Blair Witch Project meets The Conjuring or The Witch.

What it doesn’t feel like is the Hellboy we have come to know and love. Look, diehard fans are still mad that Guillermo del Toro never got to complete his planned trilogy after the massive success of Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). Originally titled Hellboy III: Dark Worlds, the project was canceled due to lack of financing, and the fans haven’t forgotten… or forgiven.

Lionsgate tried to reboot the franchise instead with Harbour in the titular role, but that film turned out to be one of the biggest flops of 2019. Director Neil Marshall actually disowned the film, calling it “godawful” and “the worst professional experience of my life.” He had pitched the project as a darker, R-rated horror version of Hellboy, but studio interference meant he had very little creative control in the end. Now it’s Taylor’s turn to bring us his own darker, horrific R-rated vision, working on a smaller scale—if nothing else, it hopefully reduced the aforementioned studio interference. There’s not yet a release date, but we’ll see how it turned out soon enough.

Listing image by Ketchup Entertainment

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