- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Imagine a world where director Guillermo del Toro had never turned actor Ron Perlman into comic creator Mike Mignola’s definitive demonic paranormal investigator.

Director Neil Marshall imagined, and his attempt to rewrite history not only annoyed critics and fans but also bombed at the box office earlier this year.

Now looking for cult status redemption, his Hellboy  (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated R, 121 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $42.99) arrives to home theaters in the 4K format in hopes of finding naughty teenage fan boys looking to embrace blood-soaked gore and the comic book source material.

This mash-up of a reboot features a darker and grittier Hellboy (David Harbour of “Stranger Things” fame), still wielding a stone right hand of doom, while gouging eyes out and liberally decapitating trolls, giants, goblins and demons as he tries to stop an ancient British sorceress called the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) from conquering the world with his unwilling help.

While Mr. del Toro gave me a delightful, quirky and fresh vision of the amusing hero and his teammates at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) back in 2004, Mr. Marshall and screenwriter Andrew Cosby meander all over Mr. Mignola’s darker universe, living in flashbacks and barely stopping long enough in scenes to appreciate it.

The film often plays out like condensed issues of Hellboy comic books scattered on a floor as the pair randomly pluck them into the movie and add new twists.

They essentially pull from Mr. Mignola’s Hellboy miniseries “The Wild Hunt” from 2008 featuring the giant killing Osiris Club, the Queen and King Arthur; the 1996 series “Wake the Devil” that included the nasty witch named Baba Yaga; and the 1995 one-shot story “The Corpse,” introducing the Queen’s main minion, the angry bipedal boar Gruagach.

The Hellboy film also works in such legendary characters as Nazi killer Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church), powerful medium Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), Hellboy’s dad Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) and shape-shifter Maj. Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), all part of Mr. Mignola’s delightful canon.

Now, I can’t blame Mr. Harbor for the mess. He has the attitude for the part, but the makeup kind of fails him.

I can’t quite define the inconsistent flaws compared to Mr. Perlman’s Hellboy, but the puffiness of the application around the lips or jawline just looks fake as well as the chunky torso. His Hellboy only shines when transformed into the harbinger of the Apocalypse complete with full horns and a fire crown.

Overall, the new “Hellboy” confounded and delivered gasps from the violence causing one of my audience members to call it “a terrible movie but great to watch.” I’ll agree as I continue to shake my head.

4K in action: Much to my chagrin, the 4K transfer to disc gets plucked from an actual 4K master format making the movie an impressive visual experience. If only they could remaster the plot.

Start with the crisp contrast of the stark black-and-white opening confrontation between King Arthur and the Blood Queen that evolves into her appearing in red set against the monochromatic backdrop and explodes with her blood as the legend strikes her down one appendage at a time. 

Next, the sometimes unwelcomed clarity and saturated color reveals the ridiculous level of gratuitous visceral gore throughout the movie, culminating with multistory demons killing humans in the most disgusting ways possible.

I love ultra-high definition, but I almost closed my eyes during much of the slaughter.

Best extras: The 4K disc offers a generous three-part, 71-minute production overview loaded with butt kissing from cast and crew interviews highlighted by a conspicuous absence of words from the director (he reportedly battled with the small team of producers during the shoot).

It first explores how deeply rooted the movie story is in Mr. Mignola’s comic book mythology, down to dialogue plucked from panels. Mr. Mignola offers plenty of observations as well as producer Lloyd Levin and Les Weldon.

The segments also cover Mr. Harbour’s training and makeup effects; building creatures and demons; costuming; props; and offers a closer look at the other characters such as Daimo, Monaghan, Professor Bruttenholm and the Blood Queen with thoughts from the actors playing them.

Also, viewers can watch a trio of deleted scenes with the best being a dream sequence as Hellboy takes a shower (we even get to see his hoofs) with the Blood Queen, and there is plenty of blood.

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