HELLBENT is the story of a group of friends partying in gayborhood, WeHo, during the annual Halloween Festival. They’re soon stalked buy a hot guy in a Devil costume who goes after each one to behead them (the sexual jokes just write themselves).
HELLBENT is, to my knowledge, the first gay slasher film (que the Nightmare on Elm Street part 2 jokes) that isn’t a cover for soft-core gay porn
like the THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE films which face it, all the male characters were queens. It’s basic story is nothing groundbreaking in the genre; a group of friends go to a party and one by one are killed by a stranger. There are many wink-and-nudge moments that recall , perhaps the most iconic slasher film, HALLOWEEN. We don’t know the killer, his face, his name, nor his motives. We just know he’s pissed. We get chopped heads, eyeball-stabbings, and lots of beheadings. The success of the film is based on its simplicity.
The filmmakers weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here and the execution of the characters, while one-dimensional, felt as comforting as trick or treating on Halloween. The characters are not stereotypes and, unlike some other “gay-horror” films, aren’t treated as jokes. There are also some fairly effective scenes maximizing the small space of a nightclub and an apartment. Writer-director Paul Etheredge deserves props for creating a horror film with gay men as the main characters and their gayness not faded in the background nor overt. Now if we can just get a sequel or a proper Blu-ray release.
The film’s low budget is really obvious and unfortunately hindered some of it’s potential. There were also a couple of scenes where the sound quality was inferior and the lighting was either too harsh or too low in a couple of spots, but that could’ve been due to the streaming quality from Amazon. While the kills were great, there wasn’t enough suspense in the film to make you feel like there was any real build up to the danger.
HELLBENT is a hard to find (I was able to buy on Amazon streaming services only) yet highly enjoyable horror film. It doesn’t break any ground but does makes effective use of it’s settings and characters in ways the some of its peers don’t do. This has been a favorite of mine since it came out and I’m genuinely shocked that it doesn’t get talked about more. It doesn’t even have a special DVD or Blu-ray release. I’m even more shocked that we have an upcoming sequel to SKYLINE coming out but not this.
*** out of 4