Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hellgate (1989)

Hellgate has got to be one of the worst, all-over-the-place horror films I’ve ever seen! From the weird gags to groan-worthy jokes to the silly ghost/zombie/ghost town/magical crystals/revenge storylines that crisscross the mess of the movie, I was shaking my head is disbelief most of its running time. However, though there is no doubt this is a horribly bad movie, it still has a certain charm to it.

The film opens with a bunch of college kids on vacation who have rented a cabin in the woods. While they wait for their last friend to arrive, they tell scary stories, including the local tale of the Hellgate Hitchhiker. In the 1950s, a motorcycle gang kidnapped poodle skirt cutie Josie (apparently, poodle skirts use that rip-away technology that stripper clothes utilize!) and took her to the town of Hellgate. No one besides her dad tries to help her, which results in him killing her by accident. Years later, the father still grieves for his daughter but when a crystal is found that appears to reanimate the dead (and make turtles moo like cows or make the newly undead explode or liquefy passerby), he decides to bring back his precious daughter and get revenge on everyone. Josie now haunts Hellgate’s back roads and tries to lure unsuspecting strangers back to Hellgate, which has become a ghost town.

Meanwhile, it turns out the buddy of the college kids gets lost on the way to the cabin and is seduced by Josie (who strikes weird poses like she’s a newbie on American’s Next Top Model or something), but gets away right before her father zaps him with the crystal’s laser beam (I’m not making this up). He finally makes it to the cabin but convinces his friends to return to Hellgate in case Josie needs help. There they are greeted by the rest of the undead denizens of Hellgate…

This movie is flippin’ all over the place and from the first couple of scenes there is TONS to make fun of (Josie’s lame attempts at escape from the bikers, her black granny panties, the fact that no one helps when she is kidnapped, not even a guy with a big-ass shotgun (!), the silly scene where she is killed when a motorcycle crashes through a brick wall she just happened to be standing in front of – and this was only 5 minutes into the movie!!). The silliness only continues from there…some of it good (the banter between the college kids), some of it groan-inducing (ahem, the mooing turtle).

Despite its weird charm, the film still seems confused as to what it really is – sometimes it plays it straight, other times it plays it outrageous, and it tries to cram way too many sub-genres (ghosts, haunted towns, zombies, etc.) into its already silly story. For the most part it doesn’t work and I was rolling my eyes more than I was laughing or enjoying myself. However, this film is such a disaster I couldn’t look away! Its over-the-top nature (Zombie can-can dancers! Copious scenes of glass breaking in slow-mo! Tons of shots of Josie lying in bed pouting over the escaped college student while her nipple pokes through a huge wine stain on her dress! The crystal’s laser making things go all explody!) and straight-up weirdness kept me watching ‘til the bitter end.

Besides just laughing at the bizarre nature of the film, I will say that the zombie make-up, especially in the scene with the cars (these zombies can drive…but in this movie I guess anything is possible), is pretty kick ass. The scene itself, with the zombies starting to crowd around the college students, is one of the few well-done scenes in the film and really stands out against the rest of the trashiness of the rest of the movie.

If you are looking for a truly BAD movie to torture your friends and neighbors with that you can still laugh it, a good option may be Hellgate. At least you can have a few laughs in between the eye rolling and the exasperated sighs. However, under no circumstances would this ever be considered a GOOD movie! Thank god this was the last film for BOTH director William A. Levey and writer Michael O’Rourke!

Available from Amazon!

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