"Hellgate" begins with a narrative-within-a-narrative, as college students awaiting their friend's arrival at their vacation cabin relay the urban legend of a young woman who was kidnapped and murdered in the nearby ghost town of Hellgate. Little do they know, their friend is meanwhile encountering her on a deserted road en route, and the group become embroiled in the bizarre town's goings-on, where the dead are animated by a magical crystal.
Quite frankly one of the most disjointed and bizarre concepts I've encountered as a lifelong horror enthusiast, "Hellgate" is one for the history books that has been left out of them. Not because it's a good film—it's a very, very bad film—but it's also one of the most ridiculously fun (and ridiculously stupid) late-eighties horror offerings out there.
I knew within the first five minutes what I was getting myself into; the opening scene in the "fifties diner" appeared to be a reverse-anachronism, sporting so many historical inaccuracies and the heaviest late eighties/early nineties vibes you could possibly imagine, and things just went further down the rabbit hole from there on out. The sets in general are not too dissimilar from those you'd see in a high school play, and the ghost town itself looks like an unused studio backlot that was slapped together to appear as a (thoroughly unconvincing) western town. And yet, in spite of these limitations, the film manages to be somewhat atmospheric in its own bizarre way. Maybe it's the tackiness of the sets, or the way they're shot, but the apparent failed intent contributes to the overall weirdness of the film.
As for the special effects—well, gather round, folks, and check out the bat on the string, the exploding fishbowl, and the demonic turtle! The film is also littered with hilarious slow-motion shots during key moments of action. The acting and dialogue is by and large bad, and Ron Pallilo is essentially the only actor here who isn't an unknown (or whose film this wasn't his/her only credit). The script overall is disjointed, and the film appears as if it's trying to be multiple things at once: a creature feature, a slasher film, a ghost story, a sci-fi adventure—it's even sometimes humorous, though the one thing it never quite reaches is seriously "dramatic."
And, alas, despite all of the majorly problematic things I've listed about "Hellgate," I have to say that I found it as equally charming as it was absurd. I also feel that there is a good skeleton to the film—it is the execution of it that tears it to shreds. The film has a fantastically bizarre, creepy premise, and there are moments in the film where it nears a certain kind of surrealism that it seems to be striving for; the scene in which Pallilo encounters the ghostly Abigail Wolcott on the dark, rural road is a prime example. There are shades of David Lynch (and Cronenberg) here, and while the turnout is far from great, or even good, I felt the core of the film was actually rather intriguing.
Overall, "Hellgate" is quite obviously a bad film, but it's also supremely enjoyable for a niche audience of people who relish these sorts of bad horror films—and I count myself as one of those people. In spite of all of the film's technical flaws, I do believe there is a solid film here somewhere, but the filmmakers never found it. Even as a lost opportunity, "Hellgate" is a one-of-a- kind in its ability to leave you utterly dumbfounded. 6/10.
Action / Comedy / Horror
Action / Comedy / Horror
A motorcycle gang kidnaps a young woman, Josie, from a diner and brutally kills her. Many years later, the girl's father finds a magic crystal that can bring the life back to dead objects. He uses it to re-animate his daughter. He lets her seduce any young man that comes to visit the small town and then kills them. Four young students, two boys and two girls spend a vacation near the town, Hellgate. They hear about the story and get involved.
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March 22, 2016 at 09:19 AM