Director – Paul Etheredge
Cast – Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips, Luke Weaver, Miguel Angel Caballero, Nina Landey, Wren T. Brown
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I first heard of Hellbent several years ago and remember being quite interested in this piece due to this simply being a “gay” horror movie. What do I mean by that? Well, it is strongly influenced by the “gay” culture, all in male-male form, and holds no restraint in delivering such elements. While I am not gay and do not plan to experiment in such acts unless this guy allows it, I really found this idea to be a unique twist to the slasher sub-genre and a unique addition to the horror genre overall, which along with great kills and plenty of gore to go around made for a mostly-positive watch despite several faults.
After two gay men are brutally murdered in West Hollywood the night before Halloween, Eddie and his friends attend a Halloween festival downtown and make contact with the psycho killer of the two gay men, who then sets his sights on offing Eddie and his gay friends.
Political issues aside; it is about damn time my gay friends were given a voice in the horror genre. Some may balk at this film over its content, which was never truly raunchy or sleazy but does consist of buff men kissing each other and dressing in drag, so those of you who feel that is a problem will possibly not find this film as enjoyable as those who can look past those. Am I saying that you are wrong for feeling that way? No, not necessarily, but consider it fair warning and please do not hate on the film for such antics.
The storyline is quite the usual slasher template, following a group of friends who are vehemently stalked by a savage killer for no apparent reason, which is a storyline that I often enjoy. We get plenty of characters thrown into this piece, and the film taking place on Halloween night makes for a fun visual experience due to the numerous horror-esque costumes adorning the party scenes when the group of friends hit the Halloween festivities. If you read my reviews then you should know my emphasis on “more characters = more kills”, and that was the case with this piece as we were given numerous kill sequences that thankfully came in gruesome fashion. The killer was great, giving us numerous decapitation scenes delivered via a small scythe that blended in very well with his awesome costume, which was never fulled explained whether or not it was really a Halloween costume or just the way he looked. Speaking of the “unexplained”, (spoiler approach) we never find out the reasoning behind the killer’s madness and why he is seeking out male homosexuals to kill. Some of you may balk at this and others may not, but for a film that shows us a gay element that I have never before seen in the horror genre I really wanted to know the reasoning behind the killer’s actions, so I found it unfavorable in my case. Sadly, that is not the only fault of the film. There were way too many sequences merely consisting of the gay friends out having fun and boozing it up, which would have maybe been OK for another genre, but for a horror film I felt that it detrimented from the film via its pacing and really kept this film from achieving a higher rating. This was a very big deal given there are plenty of kill sequences in the film, but they were not paced properly and allowed the party element to take control for way too long – losing focus constantly throughout this piece.
Director Paul Etheredge(Angel of Death) did a mostly-positive job executing this piece, giving us great kill sequences and a favorable killer who issued plenty of gore for us to savor. For this being his first feature film he did a swell job in bringing his screenplay to screen despite its numerous faults, and despite the pacing issues he managed to keep the level of fun fairly high thanks to fun characters who reaffirmed my opinion that gay bars are just as fun as (political correctness need not apply) “normal” ones, and don’t play crappy bro-rock either.
Overall, Hellbent is a unique watch thanks to it being the first truly “gay” horror film that I have seen, and thankfully it also delivers some good horror as well. The kills are great, gory, and are provided by an enjoyable killer, however the film does suffer numerous unforgivable story-related faults that kept this from being an effort that I recommend for a good horror experience. If you are looking for something “different” and can look past the odd-pacing then this one may work for you, but you have been forewarned.