Helstrom Review: Hulu’s Horror Series Brings Marvel Back to TV

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Like many of you, I had never heard of Daimon Helstrom before this. I vaguely knew the character was a Marvel property, but as someone who has only seen one and a half MCU films (I fell asleep in Iron Man, sue me), that wasn’t a big draw for me. But when the trailer for Hulu’s Helstrom came out I thought it looked cool and spooky, so I decided to try it out. Despite having other obligations at work and loved ones hoping to spend quality time with me at night, I somehow had finished all five screeners made available to press that day. And now I feel like it’s my duty to encourage you to binge it too once all 10 episodes hit Hulu on Oct. 16. It’s just that fun.

The show stars Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon as Daimon and Ana Helstrom, the offspring of a demon dad who was a prolific serial killer during their childhood. Before his death, the Helstrom patriarch took a special interest in Ana, at one point abducting her for an extended period, during which time she witnessed unspeakable horrors. And if that wasn’t already enough to put these kids in therapy for years, their human mother Victoria (Elizabeth Marvel) became possessed by a demon as punishment for discovering the truth about her husband 20 years ago. She’s remained institutionalized ever since, all while weakening under the demon’s control.

Daimon and Ana not only inherited a lot of childhood trauma from their parents, but also powers. While the full extent of their abilities isn’t made clear in Helstrom‘s early episodes (and it’s likely that the Helstrom siblings aren’t even fully aware of what their demonic powers are truly capable of), they both have found ways to utilize their abilities in ways that they believe serve the greater good — or at least the greater good as they define it. The aloof and sometimes insensitive Daimon, an ethics professor by trade who can exorcise demons and ignite fires, uses his abilities to investigate and perform exorcisms for the Vatican alongside his new partner, the nun-in-training Gabriella (Ariana Guerra). Meanwhile, the equally hardened but enviably chic Ana, who has the ability to learn through touch (like Theo in Hill House) and drain life force from people, uses her job running an auction house as a cover to distribute deadly justice to those whose crimes she deems worthy of her unique form of supernatural retribution. 

Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon, <em>Helstrom</em>Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon, Helstrom

Having spent much of their lives apart and each still struggling to cope with the traumas of their childhood, Daimon and Ana have a strained relationship. But when it becomes clear that the demon possessing their mother is plotting something, Daimon calls up his sister for help looking into the matter. Working together proves difficult for the siblings, who are different in some regards but share in several of their worst characteristics, including being defensive, emotionally closed off, and untrusting of others. Their different views on how to handle their mother also causes tension between the pair, as Daimon has dutifully watched over her for years, despite largely being met by the cruel words of a demon instead of the caring matriarch he longs for. Whereas Ana remains angry at their mother for turning a blind eye to her father’s actions and blames her for what she went through as a child. (If all of this sounds terribly familiar to you, welcome to the dysfunctional family club. As vice chairman, I’m happy to induct you as our latest member.)

The Helstrom Trailer Is Serving Us Marvel at Its Most Horrifying

But though the family dynamics give Helstrom its emotional weight, the overarching mythology is what keeps you intrigued. As Daimon and Ana investigate what the demon possessing their mother is up to, they discover that she isn’t the only demon they need to keep a close eye on; there’s a second demon, whose growing power and legion of supporters makes him not only a threat to the Helstrom siblings, but all of humanity. While they look into the matter, Daimon and Ana are forced to confront parts of their past they wish had stayed buried and the duo soon find themselves immersed in a complex plot that involves cursed skulls, dueling demons, clever twists, and honestly some mythology I don’t even quite understand yet. Throughout it all, Helstrom maintains a consistent level of mystery and suspense, making sure to always raise new questions as they dole out the answers to others. And for those craving an occult horror series with some serious edge, Helstrom more than rises to the occasion, delivering a level of grit and gore we haven’t seen in a Marvel property since the Netflix series — Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and The Punisher — were axed.

At its core, Helstrom is a story about nature versus nurture, with Daimon and Ana grappling with their fears of whether their father’s sins were passed down to them and how much they’ll ever be able to truly define their own paths. And blending this existential exploration with the occult and a quest to stop the apocalypse feels like a perfect TV cocktail for right now. It’s not too scary to keep you up at night, nor is it so emotionally wrought as to leave you feeling devastated once the credits roll. But Helstrom, with compelling mythology and morally complicated characters, is just the type of spooky adventure I was craving this fall. So if you’re looking for a horror binge that goes down easy this Halloween season, I cannot recommend Helstrom more.

TV Guide rating: 4/5

Helstrom premieres Friday, Oct. 16 on Hulu.

Alain Uy and Sydney Lemmon, <em>Helstrom</em>Alain Uy and Sydney Lemmon, Helstrom

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