Hellbent

You wouldn't think a minor twist could make such a difference to a fundamentally formulaic slasher movie. But swapping cute guys for the pretty girls who usually wind up on the business end of some psycho-killer's blade does the trick in this handsomely styled horror picture, which also makes a good-faith effort to differentiate among the victims-to-be before...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

You wouldn't think a minor twist could make such a difference to a fundamentally formulaic slasher movie. But swapping cute guys for the pretty girls who usually wind up on the business end of some psycho-killer's blade does the trick in this handsomely styled horror picture, which also makes a good-faith effort to differentiate among the victims-to-be before it starts picking them off. It's the night before Halloween, and two gay teenagers necking in a Los Angeles park are brutally slain with a scythe, their heads taken from the scene by the killer. The next day, four roommates meet up before the West Hollywood Halloween carnival. En route to their night of costumed revelry, Eddie (Dylan Fergus), Chaz (Andrew Levitas), Tobey (Matt Phillips) and Joey (Hank Harris) take a morbid detour through the park and catch the eye of a lurking leather daddy in a sexy devil mask (Michael Louden). How were they to know they were flirting with the very maniac who murdered those poor boys, or that he'd follow them to the carnival, scythe in hand? The friends split up in search of fun. Muscular model Tobey, who's just scored his first billboard ad, discovers that getting all dolled up in '40s glamour drag means he has to spend the night fighting off straight guys; the hunks he's interested in aren't into drag queens. Inexperienced Joey hopes to run into his dream jock, while ecstasy-popping, bisexual wild-boy Chaz is up for anything, anytime, with anyone. Eddie, who wanted to be a cop but flunked the physical because he has a bum eye, has dusted off his dad's old police uniform and works up his courage to approach Jake (Bryan Kirkwood), the bad-boy biker on whom he's been nursing a secret crush for what seems like forever. They all wind up at a fetish-club party in a multistory warehouse whose gore decor blinds the increasingly drunk and uninhibited partygoers to the fact that there's real hell in their midst. After all, where better for a masked killer to lose himself than in a throng of costumed Halloween lovers? MAKE A WISH (2003) actually beat this film to the gay-themed slasher-picture punch with its story of lesbians on a camping trip being stalked by a killer, but writer-director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts' background in art direction serves him well — his movie wins hands-down for style and attitude. The film's dubious claim to kinship with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) and the original HALLOWEEN (1978) springs from the fact that all three films share an executive producer, Joseph Wolf.

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