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IndieDVD presents
Hellchild: The World of Nick Lyon (2002)

"After several months of severe depression, Hilda enters her experimental phase. She discovered that all she had to do to feel better was to pop a pill, and her depression was gone. It was better than sex for Hilda. She would dance for hours like a monkey gone rabid."
- Mrs. Filthy (Patrizia Moresco)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 17, 2002

Stars: Xenia Seeberg
Other Stars: Patrizia Moresco, Pierre Shrady, Yvonne Schramm, Manuela Riva
Director: Nick Lyon

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, language)
Run Time: 01h:38m:00s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 802695001498
Genre: black comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB-B- A-

DVD Review

Nick Lyon is a quirky, relatively unknown Idaho-born filmmaker, born in 1970, who eventually relocated to Germany in 1991 to study at the prestigious Film Academy Baden-Wurtemburg, where he studied directing. In 1999, he had the opportunity to make his feature length directing debut with I Love You, Baby, starring Maximillian Schell, but his creative roots are in independent short films. This collection of his early works, just released by IndieDVD, is a weirdly appealing set of John Waters/David Lynch inspired visuals, all encased in bizarre, dark and just plain strange stories.

The centerpiece of this disc is Lyon's 1999 brilliant award-winning short Hilda Humphrey (20m:13s), which stars Lexx's sultry Xenia Seeberg in the title role; it's a twenty minute exploration of a "geeky, nerdy, rebellious, hellchild slut with a drug problem gone brainwashed." The film is narrated by drunken floozy Mrs. Filthy (Patrizia Moresco), and it documents Hilda's descent into pill-popping sexual rebellion after her beloved pooch Lola is run over by the family car. Hilda's downward spiral starts out fun, but quickly degenerates into a brutally abrupt climax.

Lyon has a comic-book sensibility in his approach to directing, and he give's Hilda Humphrey a strangely retro look that, despite having been shot in Germany, looks as if it takes place in some dreamlike off-center 1950s world. He has a keen eye for framing scenes with the simple, pop finesse of a graphic novelist, and this short film is kinetic and invigorating in its style.

Seeberg, with those wonderful Angelina Jolie-esque lips, is all suggestive pouts and unabashed "bad girl" sex appeal as naughty Hilda, in a role that helped her land the part of Xev on the Sci-Fi channel's Lexx. Seeberg struts in an array of bad wigs and trashy short shorts, and her "rabid monkey" pill-fueled dance sequence is nothing short of visual brilliance.

Lyon may have intended this as some kind of strange social commentary, but to me it is like a chapter out of some parallel John Waters universe. It's twisted, bizarre, and at twenty minutes in length, far too short.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: This isn't a true 1.33:1 transfer, because the main feature Hilda Humphrey is presented with very thin black bars across the top and bottom. It's almost a 1.5:1 widescreen (very similar to Synapse's A Better Place), but it's not listed anywhere on the packaging as such. Colors are a little soft, and appear rather muted.

The extra Lyon's shorts on this disc vary in quality, and most have a few imperfections. Colors in Phal-O-Krat tend to bleed a bit, while The Fisherman's Frau has the same washed out look that Hilda Humphrey does.

Overall, the image transfer is adequate, and considering the bulk of the material here was film school work, it looks fine.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is presented in 2.0 Stereo surround, and it doesn't offer much in the way of broad dynamic range—not terribly surprising on an independent short film. Dialogue is mixed well, but there is a noticeable lack of low-end frequencies that give many of the shorts an unbalanced feel to them. There are no glaring flaws, it's just a rather lackluster transfer. Rear channels are not used, with the front channels carrying the full load. Of all the material here, Hilda Humphrey sounds the best of all, with the two music videos coming in tied for second.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Devil's Keep, IndieDVD Titles
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Nick Lyon
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Almost every short (the exception being the two music videos) on this disc features an optional commentary from Nick Lyon. The guy has a lot to say, and his thoughts are organized, succinct and generally informative. He provides an interesting insight into the creation of his student films, and his comments on Hilda Humphrey and The Fisherman's Frau are the best of the lot. He mentions having shot about another twenty minutes of Hilda Humphrey footage, and I only wish that could have found its way onto this disc. It seems that Lyon could have talked twice as long about each of his films, and at times it seemed a shame that some of the films were so short.

Phal-O-Krat (23m:51s)
Also known as Frankenstein Penis, this 1994 outing is the story of a man who gets an operation to get an (ahem) 18" penis. Problems arise (pun intended) after the surgery, and this one is told in flashback form. This is sort of a film noir piece, except for the bizarre storyline, and Lyon engages in a number of striking genre visuals.

Godbox (12m:22s)
Another 1994 project, Godbox is a Kafka-esque short that screams art school. Shot in black & white, it follows a line of people who wait to speak with something called Mara Sheeba, which is a big-lipped alien puppet that is supposed to be God. Mara Sheeba dispenses with telling those before him/her if they shall go to Heaven or Hell. Godbox is presented in its original German, with English subtitles.

The Fisherman's Frau (30m:40s)
Hilda Humphrey is the highlight of Hellchild: The World of Nick Lyon, but The Fisherman's Frau is not far off. It's Lyon's reworking of the Grimm fairy tale, The Fisherman and His Wife, whereby a henpecked fisherman catches a talking fish. This one features a nightmare-inducing fish puppet, and another great performance from Germany's answer to Divine: Maneula Riva.

Candy Dance Chant (05m:45s)
From 1999, this began as a trailer for a film that was never made (later renamed Karma Noir). Lyon assembled it to test an animation style, which essentially gives the piece a painted, comic book feel. This is yet another stab at film noir by Lyon, and this trailer has a real 1940s pulp vibe. I don't know if it would hold up as a feature, but the trailer sure is cool.

Here Comes the Pain (04m:15s)
This music video by techno-metal band The Farmer Boys was directed by Lyon, and features some heavy duty, twisted religious imagery that caused this one to be banned in Germany. Lyon incorporates some of his Candy Dance Chant footage here, too.

Never Let Me Down Again (04m:52s)
The Farmer Boys do a cover of the Depeche Mode single, and Lyon dresses this one up as a cartoony Western, and is shot in sepia tones. Xenia Seeberg makes an appearance in this clip, too.

A pair of trailers (The Devil's Keep, and an IndieDVD preview of previews) round out the extras. There are no proper chapters on this disc, nor are there subtitles, and the main menu includes a "Play All" option.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

If you like things a little left of center, then Hellchild: The World of Nick Lyon is just what the doctor ordered. This collection of Lyon's films from IndieDVD has the sexy weirdness of Hilda Humphrey as its centerpiece, and the inclusion of a well-informed director commentary on practically EVERY short makes this DVD that much more worthwhile of an experience.

An easy recommendation for fans of John Waters and David Lynch.

 


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