Xanadu Hellfire Image

Xanadu Hellfire

By Bobby LePire | September 18, 2023

To understand the tone of writer-director Justin Armao’s Xanadu Hellfire, there is one thing to know: Jason Trost, the filmmaker behind the FP franchise and Wet And Reckless, makes a cameo as a hardcore fitness trainer. Given the style of comedy meshed with sci-fi and fantasy Armao aims for, it is no surprise that someone drawn to the same whacked-out atmosphere would want in.

Ruby (Aria Surrec) has a good relationship with her widower father, Steven (Ryon Thomas), and is obsessed with comic books. Well, really, she’s fanatical about just one: Xanadu Hellfire. For her upcoming 9th birthday, Ruby wants to go to a specific spot in the desert and open a portal to summon her warrior of the wasteland hero. After getting hold of a “millennium staff,” thanks to the socially awkward Dewey (Sam Ball), the young girl and her dad venture out to the sandy dunes. Once in the correct spot, marked by a skull on the ground, they insert the staff, turn it in the proper order, and a portal actually opens and sends Xandau (Macy Minear) through.

The future-dwelling fighter is confused but also excited to be back in time and finally experience the wonders of a burger. Unfortunately, hot on Xanadu’s trail is her evil half-sister Raven (Arianna America) and her lackeys, Valeria (Erica Kauffman) and Sonja (Libby Wahlmeier). Valeria and Sonja especially relish using their powers to cause destruction on restaurant workers and students, though Couch McCoy (Michael McCoy) is cool. Can Xanadu, Ruby, and Steven fight off Raven and return Xanadu to her proper time?

…hot on Xanadu’s trail is her evil half-sister Raven…”

Sure, one could overthink and over-analyze the logistics of Xanadu Hellfire. How is Xanadu both a warrior in the future and a comic character in the past? How does magic come to be in a hundred years or less? Leggings still exist in 2093? How and why did an ordinary curtain rod (or some such) work as a conduit between the present and the future?

But these questions miss the ultimate point of the movie. It’s hoping to be nothing more than a ridiculous and over-the-top fun outing. In that regard, Armao succeeds. The jokes are offbeat and funny. The kids cuss just as much as the adults, but there’s a running gag about putting money into a swear jar. After a skirmish, a worn-out and defeated Xanadu asks if they won, and Ruby decidedly answers the question. It is a very amusing little exchange, as is the moment Xanadu orders a tsunami burger and has to tell the waiter what’s on it. On top of the comedy, the action throughout is very exciting. The actors handle their respective weapons well, adding a sense of realism to the fights.

The cast of Xanadu Hellfire is quite enjoyable. The young Surrec is adorable and endearing, especially when interacting with her best friend, Becky, played by Chloe Sligar. Minear is delightful as the attitude-sporting fighter from the future. When she retaliates against Ruby’s bullies at school, it is entertaining. Thomas shares a nice chemistry with his on-screen daughter. America is a threatening presence and has the action chops to back it up.

Xanadu Hellfire is a goofy lark of a flick that entertains while it is on. Applying too much logic undercuts the silliness and enjoyment factor quite a bit. All the actors understood the assignment and deliver appropriate performances. The costumes are mostly quite good, and the cinematography is surprisingly strong.

For more information, visit the Xanadu Hellfire Instagram page.

Xanadu Hellfire (2023)

Directed and Written: Justin Armao

Starring: Aria Surrec, Ryon Thomas, Macy Minear, Sam Ball, Arianna America, Erica Kauffman, Libby Wahlmeier, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Xanadu Hellfire Image

"…a goofy lark of a flick that entertains..."

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