So Bad, It’s Amazing: Hellgate (1989) Review

For me, usually if a horror movies is TRYING to be funny it will fail miserably. The ones that do it straight and fail are all the more funny!

I seem to have to always justify my reasons to people as to how I can watch, buy, and even spend endless hours seeking the most wretchedly awful movies known to man. With eBay receipts reaching the hundreds, I confess I am guilty of that enjoyment. I also confess that this world we live in doesn’t let you choose your daily outcomes, and any honest person will admit that some of those outcomes can leave you feeling depressed, stressed, mad, bored, what have you. After watching some of these movies when in those mind frames, it’s very hard to find myself staying mad/sad/bored for too long!

How anybody could take the world and its petty problems serious after viewing a flick like this seem to be as alien to me as I to them. Sure, there are obnoxiously bad movies that do nothing but aggravate the senses, those movies reach the pits of banality and surely wont help with anyone’s all ready shaky mentalities, pure garbage we call em! Then we have the obscure flicks that goes beyond the pits of bad movie making and seems to reach a point that deserves its own plateau.

At the start of this movie ominous music plays, lightning crashes, and we are introduced to 2 females and 1 male all telling ghost stories in a Friday the 13th like cabin. The ages of these people is never declared, although at one point a university is mentioned so for the movies sake, instead of 35ish (which indeed they appear to be), we’ll call them some things. They are waiting for another friend to arrive [for those who care it’s Horshak from Welcome Back Kotter, or to really get his face out there, Hawes from Jason lives!] and to kill time one female decides to tell of the urban legend of the old ghost town up the road. It seems in the fifties a biker gang kidnapped and killed the mayor’s daughter, and the mayor vows revenge, and wouldn’t you have it the mayor (or something) finds a blue crystal which can reanimate the Dead with its fantastical Tron like blue beam that it shoots forth when used. We know this from a hilarious scene involving a goldfish and a sea turtle (which bites the mayor’s face). Well Anyways, it appears the legend is really true and the ghost of the girl (with quite the rack) haunts the roads of the South African outback (although the movie says it’s set in California) seeking revenge against the gang who killed her, and her dad hates strangers in general and will kill them all!. Well Hawes takes a gamble and picks her up, enters the ghost town, and is seduced by ghoul girl! Revengeful mayor finds out, declares death, Hawes runs away, seeks his friends, and declares to save ghoul girl! Which leads the 20somethings to the ghost town, only to fall prey to zombies, slashers, constant one liners, and the suspense of watching a snail move.

I feel compelled by the approach to this material. Is it satire? Black Comedy? An honest approach to horror? Because of this uncertain demeanor the movie has a certain trashy charm. The writer seems to be inspired by sitcoms or something as the screenplay has these “witty” lines that fail in invoking Seinfeld or Married With Children. During the most “suspenseful” of scenes the characters have no problem taking a break to make a joke. Also the laws of this certain universe’s logic are also at best, helter skelter. Not only do characters have Scotty beaming them here and there, we also have scenes of zombies or something prowling the town, but it seems the director didn’t tell them their purpose as they seem to walk about, stare at the camera and then- that’s it! We also have ghoul girl laying in a bed which would seem to be the entire half of the film while enchanting “Matt, Darlin Matt” while her bosom,covered in red wine, camera mugs.

Also the movie breaks the rule of every character having a purpose. Who is the man burning at the end? Why would the mayor (or something) bring back the ghost of the biker gang who started everything in the first place?) Where exactly do all the “diners” occupants live? The movie is so obscure I found myself thinking, thinking, THINKING of all the answers.

The movie has some funny scenes to be sure. Also what is with the director himself? He has a cameo as a head in a fridge, and seems to no have no grasp on catching a clue. Take two murder scenes, one dude has his head chopped off and the body running down the road while the mad slasher holds the head up and laughs, or a female, after watching the beheading screams and then calmly sits in a saloon smoking & drinking, while ghost cabaret dancers dance a way, she is then strangled while blood spurts, in the most tackiest of slow motion. The ghost’s motivations are a little shaky: Are they all bad? Why are some only human while others are rotting? What about the reanimated bat on a string? The box cover has the mind boggling “From the SFX people who did Hellraiser 1&2”, but do a little digging, you’ll find out that he was an assistant on The Hellraiser movies 1&2 and visited the Hellgate set for ONE day before leaving and giving them permission to milk his name for all the appeal they could get.

And so forth.

There are plenty of bad movies, even movies that are considered “good”, this one seems to go beyond the realms of bad film-making, it’s so abysmal that it really makes my day, and that’s all that should matter right? Enjoy.

–Vince Fontaine