Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… William A. Levy’s Hellgate.
Our story begins (chronologically, anyway) with an old town legend. Josie (Abigail Wolcott) is enjoying a quiet night at a local diner when a nearby biker gang grabs her and begins tearing her clothes off in front of God and everyone. The owner of the establishment doesn’t like this display and heads outside with a shotgun to scare them off. They leave the premises but take Josie with them. Given the firearm in his hands he could have at least tried to prevent the sexual assault that is clearly about to occur, but does absolutely nothing. Scumbag.
Anyway, they drive her up to Hellgate, the local ghost town when her father interferes. He attacks the bikers, killing one. Unfortunately this death causes his bike to go crashing into Josie, killing her on impact. Fast forward and there’s something about a glowing blue crystal that shoots fish mutating lasers and Josie being resurrected as some kind of zombie ghost.
This convoluted mess is all just backstory. It’s told as a ghost story around a campfire. While three of our main characters are up at their cabin performing a painful exposition dump, another character (Matt, played by Ron Palilo) is on the way. Matt is driving to the cabin, getting lost, visiting the same diner from the story, and encountering Josie’s zombie ghost.
He almost runs her off the road and ultimately decides to give her a ride. She takes him through Hellgate and to her house where she invites him in for some naughty fun. Unfortunately they are quickly interrupted by her father who now has metal plates on his face for some reason. Matt quickly escapes as blue crystal lasers blast at his car.
When Matt reunites with his friends they begin to look into this old town legend, deciding to go back and explore Hellgate because…reasons. This is where things start to actually move forward. Hellgate is a hotbed of ghosts and zombies. On top of that, old metal face starts to pick our heroes off one by one. Sounds like a pretty standard affair, right? Sure. The only problem is that they don’t arrive at Hellgate until an hour into the movie.
This film really needed to pick up the pace and get things moving faster. The backstory took too long, Matt spent too much time messing around with Josie, and in general things just didn’t happen. This has almost the same key events taking place as House of 1000 Corpses (hear a legend, pick up a girl, go to a spooky location) and that movie managed to get us there a hell of a lot quicker. Maybe they should have simplified the dumb backstory? Just a thought.
The other thing I find to be an odd choice is how overly-sexualized the film makes Josie’s ghost/zombie out to be. She’s literally always in a see through night gown and throwing herself at Matt at every opportunity she gets. I understand the evil seductress thing but when your introduction to the character has her as a victim of attempted gang rape, it makes the whole thing feel exploitative and uncomfortable. Yikes!
On the technical aspect, this film is pretty middle of the road. The Hellgate set is spooky in kind of a cartoony way and the special effects range from awful to not bad. Any visual effects (lasers and things like that) are terrible, but some of the practical effects are well done. One laughing skeleton puppet stands out as does a certain decapitation. I just wish there was more of this.
The acting is about what you’d expect. Not the worst I’ve seen, but nothing to write home about.
While Hellgate has some cool moments towards the end it’s too little too late. The pacing is absolutely atrocious and it takes way too long to get going. I felt myself getting more and more bored with every bad joke they threw out. Don’t bother with this one unless you want to skip ahead to the one hour mark. Maybe the Hellgate from 2011 is better.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.