Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Hellbent"I think that Hellbent follows a very familiar formula for a slasher film from the 70's and early 80's", says writer/director Paul Eheredge-Ouzts. And he's not wrong, the difference this time round being that it's a gay-themed slasher movie (the title being a clever play on words, I guess).

I'm always wary of movies that seem to have a high average mark on imdb but when you read the comments you realise that all the positive comments that come with marks of 9 or 10 (out of 10) are from those who saw the movie at a gay festival. Gay voters, or at least those who attend gay film festivals and then go to vote on imdb, seem to follow a silly rule that says 'anything with even a hint of homosexuality or camp should have 8 added to its real score'. I got burnt badly through not realising this fact when I ordered Eating Out a few weeks ago. The movie had an average score of 6.3 and some rave reviews, but I found it to be by far the worst film I've seen in a long, long time. Putting cute gay guys that can't act at all into a movie and shooting it like it's an amateur theatrical production does not a good movie make. The producers of Eating Out were much cleverer than those for Hellbent in getting their marketing right - implying it was actually a sort of modern straight-bi-gay comedy along the line of a cool version of 'Friends' when in fact it's like a bunch of hairdressers from Essex deciding to make a home movie starring their mates for school. It's a stinker that plays like a bad porno movie: unbelievably wooden acting featuring over-exaggeration of facial expressions, with each scene being edited in so that it start several seconds before the actor realises the director has called 'Action' and ends several seconds after the director has yelled 'cut'. Actually it's worse than a bad porn movie because at least bad porn movies feature some sex (a gratuitous scene involving the lead cute actor taking his trousers off for no other reason than to show his naked, soft winkie to the camera so it can be mentioned in despatches does NOT count as sex!) With regard to Eating Out I want my money back!

Hellbent looked suspiciously like more of the same, and in fact does itself a disservice by being promoted as a 'gay slasher' movie, when in fact it's just a well-produced slasher picture that happens to have homosexuals instead of heterosexuals as the victims. One of the producers was the co-producer of the original Halloween movie, so this is not just some cheap low-budget, cash-in job. Personally I think they should have played down the 'gay' tag to get more horror fans - the sort who've made successes of those umpteen spin-offs from Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Jason movies - to put their bums on seats.

If you don't like slasher movies then this probably isn't for you, but if you do like to be scared, whilst also having a few nervous laughs at the same time, this delivers more intelligence, likeable characters, and fun than most of those of the same genre. The 'lambs to the slaughter' guys featured, all together on a Halloween party night in West Hollywood, are invariably cute with good bodies that they get a chance to show off, but more importantly they can act. Although I was surprised to hear in the feature supplement that ALL of them are actually straight in real life, it sort of makes sense.

The characters who get picked off one by one are a safe mixture, made up boy-band like with different types designed to appeal to different audience segments. The hero (I wonder who'll survive ;-)) is the 'nice guy' who spends most of the movie trying to get friendly with a 'bit of rough' who doesn't seem interested. His room-mate is the sex-obsessed pretty boy who will have sex with anyone male or female at any time of the day. There's the younger brother who's got the hots for the school jock. And then there's the successful underwear model who decides for the first time in his life to challenge charicatures by 'dragging up' for a party, whilst still playing himself. They're an interesting bunch, and the producers did the right thing in going for actors first, and sexuality second. Set around a street party and nightclub ('Meat') the main point here is that it's an accurate representation of the young gay lifestyle, without camping things up artificially, or over-sensationalising some of the seedier side of the gay scene. There's no overtly sexual romps, but there's no paying of lip service to avoid offending the Daily Mail readers either. The characters feel real, look real and act real. You can't ask for more than that.

At 80 minutes the film doesn't outstay its welcome, and while there's nothing new here, the gay slant keeps it interesting and adds a certain novelty to the genre. I think the DVD's overpriced at a typical online price of £14.99, particularly when the picture quality isn't really much better than 'good quality VHS' (I suspect this is down to the original footage and low budget) and the only extra's are a 30 minute 'Backlot featurette' and a trailer.

The featurette is a curious affair, with 15 wasted minutes of the actors talking us through the story, with lots of clips we've already seen - it's as if it's a TV programme intended as a free advert for the film, albeit one giving the whole story away if you haven't seen the movie. The final 15 minutes are much better, with some interesting comments from the directors and the producers that include information on the special effects, choice of music and reasons behind the decision to make a 'gay slasher' movie. In truth, this is definitely a rental rather than a purchase, but if you're not turned off by 'slasher' pictures it's a good rental. It's very much a 'popcorn' movie that has jumps, if not outright scares, aplenty and lots of blood but not too much violence, with a good dose of humour too. It's hard to imagine anybody, other than those who just don't like horror movies in any form, getting to the end of this and not saying 'That was fun', regardless of their sexual orientation.

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