Friday, July 12, 2013

The Road to Hell is Paved With Hair Extensions

Year: 2004
Director: Paul Etheredge
Cast: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris
Run Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

You gotta hand it to a horror movie that has token straight characters.

By far the best thing about Hellbent is that, despite its reputation as the "gay slasher film," it does not use its characters' homosexuality as a gimmick. This is a routine slasher following the tried and true formula that happens to feature a cast of all gay characters. Being gay is a part of their lives and is intrinsically connected with their personalities and behavior. It is essential to the story, and this particular tale of bloody mayhem could not exist in its current state if its characters were anything other than queer.

That said, Hellbent is not a good movie.

Although this screenshot alone guarantees that it's not a 100% bad one.

It is the night before Halloween and two young swains are pulling up to Makeout Point for some steamy action that would make Grindr blush. Before they are too far along however, the night ends just about as poorly as any night of clubbing can with both paramours being decapitated by a sickle-wielding madman in a devil mask.

Yes, he's shirtless. What were you expecting, overalls? He's no basic b*tch.

The next morning, Eddie (Fergus) who is some sort of police intern is sent to put up flyers about the murders in the neighboring village of West Hollywood. He is bumbling and charming and falls madly in lust with Jake (Kirkwood), who he sees outside a tattoo shop on a smoke break between ink stabbing sessions. Ignoring the red flag that he's getting cheesy angel wings on his back, Eddie tries and fails to strike up a conversation. 

His work done for the day, he meets up with his friends at a local diner. At least two of them are his roommates, but the movie isn't too keen on making that clear. There's Chaz (Andrew Levitas) the slut (gotta have one), Joey (Hank Harris) the lovable nerd, and Tobey (Matt Phillips) who uses bravado to hide his insecurities. Now, they are more developed than that, but notice how nicely they fall into our slasher archetypes with Eddie as our resident Final Girl.

They traipse through the West Hollywood Forest (note to self: check to see if this is actually a thing) to get to the Halloween party and discover they are being followed by a mysterious masked stranger. Nothing much comes of it, and they quickly forget about it, caught up in the festivities.

Joey goes after a jock crush of his, bolstered by Halloween Spirits and Chaz's encouragement. Eddie falls in with Jake after winning him over with a personal stories about... well, this is the one spoilery type thing about the movie so I'll give that one a rest. Tobey is left to fend for himself and he learns that it's hard to pick up gay men when dressed as a woman.

Do I even need to say that the Devil Killer begins picking them off one by one?

The enormous phallus of death approaches.

The film doesn't offer much in the way of shocks or gore, although some story elements that come into play are quite unique for the subgenre. Made for pocket change, there's not much in the way of production values but there is one artistic element to speak of - the lighting. Although undoubtedly this is only the case because of the shoestring budget, most every scene is awash in sickeningly bright red light that is reminiscent of Dario Argento's Suspiria. Intentional or not, it draws to mind the characters' descent into Hell from the candy wonderland of a West Hollywood Halloween.

The film is ultimately forgettable, but it is filled with enough silly decapitations, actual character development, and sleazy shots of shirtless men to keep it interesting.

Hellbent is a trashy slashy flick, just like the ones I've come to love. But for once it is populated with characters I can relate to and that's all I ever wanted from it.

Body Count: 5
TL;DR: Hellbent is a bad slasher film, but with gay dudes. This is praise.
Rating: 5/10
Should I Spend Money on This DVD? Naw, you can just borrow it from me because of course I own it.
Word Count: 728

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