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Review: 'Helstrom' Takes Us Down Familiar Paths

by JC Alvarez
Monday Oct 19, 2020
Tom Austen in 'Helstrom'
Tom Austen in 'Helstrom'  

The devil is in the details.

There is so much to mine from the world of Marvel Comics. The Hulu Original Series "Helstrom" is the latest live-action adaptation to enter into the expanding live-action universe of superheroes and technological warriors, but it's unlike anything we've seen before (with perhaps the exception of the cinematic "Thor" and "Doctor Strange"). This series dives into the world's supernatural mythology. Starring Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon as supernatural siblings, "Helstrom" has all the expected earmarks of its genre.

Daimon Helstrom (Austen) has had the tortured existence expected of an orphan. His mother (Elizabeth Marvel) has been tempted and made a pawn of dark forces. Daimon becomes the charge of Dr. Louis Hastings (June Carryl), and he does his best to keep the monsters at bay. But with his unique perspective, Daimon has certain "gifts" that make him the most adept human being to deal with supernatural and unholy forces that are slowly creeping up with the one objective — to burn the world! The other side of the coin is Ana Helstrom (Lemmon), Daimon's sister, who has her own agenda, and who travels the world collecting artifacts of evil.

Unfortunately, something very sinister is afoot, and the two are the only ones equipped to keep the creatures from the darkest recesses of our imaginations in check. In the 10-episode first season of "Helstrom," the narrative expertly works at setting up and introducing our cast of characters. There are certain tropes in this supernatural genre, and "Helstrom" follows them to a tee. Its titular personalities are engaging, but they are pretty standard, and they're cut along similar lines that gave us "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer," "X-Files," and DC's own "Constantine."

Though "Helstrom" is working feverishly to provide us with something that feels above the standard fare, it simply being rooted in the Marvel universe isn't enough to set it apart from its contemporaries. The elegant Tom Austen is much easier on the eyes than Matt Ryan's rough-around-the-edges demonologist, John Constantine (now a part of The CW's "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" ensemble), and Sydney Lemmon is an exotic rarity on the screen, but the two are playing characters that audiences have seen before, super-powered or not. Ariana Guerra is the optimistic Gabriella Rosetti, the religious acolyte that is determined to save us all.

It's all been done. The most interesting thing about "Helstrom" is the backstory surrounding the Helstroms' origins and the curse that their mother Victoria (Marvel) is living as the vessel of something outside the realm of comprehension that Daimon has proven unable to conquer. Their father was a serial killer who separated them as children, but in the Marvel Comics, Daimon is the Son of Satan himself, and his sister, Ana, is Satana. Whether the series will take its audience down to the very gates of Hell remains to be seen, but "Helstrom" may be able to fill the vacuum of related superhero series, at least until the fire goes out.

"Helstrom" a Hulu original series, is available now.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".

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