Helstrom boss, stars preview the thrills and chills in Marvel's new drama
Over the past 12 years, Marvel has traversed many classic genres: a war epic, a '70s spy thriller, two space odysseys, a sensitive teen drama, and gritty street-level TV shows, just to name a few. Now, the House of Ideas bounds into horror with Hulu’s Helstrom — which purposefully lacks the ownership signifier "Marvel's" that every other show in the universe carries. "Not having the red box over the title is a way of telling the audience that this is something different,” says showrunner Paul Zbyszewski. “We are siloed off [from the Marvel Cinematic Universe]. Part of it is [because] it’s a darker-themed show than the other Marvel shows on other platforms.”
Based on the Son of Satan comics, the chilling series centers on Daimon (The Royals' Tom Austen) and Ana (Succession's Sydney Lemmon) Helstrom, the offspring of a serial-killing demon. As youngsters, their father’s devilish disposition destroyed the family, leaving them emotionally scarred. Now grown, the estranged siblings use their inherited powers to fight evil in different ways: Daimon performs exorcisms in Portland, while his icy San Francisco-based sister hunts wicked men like her dad.
“There’s one thing she’s after, and that’s vengeance — and justice,” says Lemmon. Austen adds: “He carries a massive amount of guilt for surviving [their father] in a way that he doesn’t believe, or can’t understand, his sister has.”
Unfortunately, Daimon and Ana must confront their traumatic past and reunite with their institutionalized and possessed mother, Victoria (Homeland's Elizabeth Marvel), when a powerful new demon is unleashed. Watching Marvel switch between Victoria's lucid state and her demonic side — which she performs with a frightening and guttural voice without the help of technology — is one of the thrills of the series.
"It's creepy and it's weird and it's unpredictable and feels dangerous," says Austen of working with Marvel. "Elizabeth is just the most incredible woman and the most incredible actress. So you always knew somewhere in the back of your mind that you were going to be safe and nothing really bad was going to happen, but she goes so deep and she goes so dark with so much of what she does that you do have to step out of yourself sometimes and just check yourself and remind yourself that this is not for real, because it's so amazing the transformation that she does."
Even though it may be good for Daimon and Ana to finally deal with some of this baggage, there are some out there who don't share that opinion. "There's an entire sect out there that believes that bad things happen when the spawn of the Devil get together. It doesn't help that mom is possessed," says Zbyszewski. "It goes back to the theme of the nature versus nurture of it all. You've got two kids who are the offspring of potentially the most evil being that's ever walked the planet. They both have abilities. What happens when they decide to put those abilities to use? Are they going to put those abilities to use for the forces of good or evil?"
Alas, Zbyszewski wouldn't go into too much detail about what those abilities might be. "They live in a world where there are these demons and then these demons are basically creatures of energy. Daimon and Ana, because of who their father was, have the ability to manipulate this energy in different ways. Ana has a particular way of manipulating that energy, as does Daimon. The ways they do that are taken in spirit from the comic books," says Zbyszewski, adding that viewers can expect some Easter eggs that reference the comics.
Because the stars spent long hours excavating this heavy family drama and shooting in spooky locations, like an abandoned Vancouver mental hospital, the show’s specter often followed them home."I was sleeping with the light on in the hallway because it does seep in,” says Lemmon. “It’s so frightening because it’s something true—it’s the battle between good and evil [and] who’s going to win. It’s something we can relate to so presently.”
Helstrom premieres Friday on Hulu.