Hellbent Review

Anthony Nield reviews TLA’s Region 2 release of Hellbent, a standard issue slasher movie given a homosexual spin…

If Hellbent is going to attract your attention over its similarly direct-to-DVD slasher movie ilk, then it’ll be for one simple reason: this is a film which provides the crowded sub-genre with a homosexual spin. There’s nothing especially subversive or transgressive to this approach, merely a horror film which is targeted at a gay audience. Thus our protagonists are not the standard issue dumb ass teens of the usual slasher flick, but a bunch of gay friends out partying at the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival; thus the standard issue faceless/deformed serial killer is replaced by a ‘muscle Mary’ in devil’s costume complete with tight red latex slacks to go with his sickle…

It’s important to note that Hellbent is geared towards a gay audience as such a direction prevents the film from lumbering into parody and/or becoming little more than a gimmick. There are no lisping stereotypes here, neither is there any overt camp stylisation, and neither is there a prudishness towards the material or the characters. Instead the approach is really quite no-nonsense, both in its portrayal of the friends’ little world and the horror elements. With regards to the latter this is essentially just another low-budget, trashy genre flick and as such satisfies the gore quotient, the darkly honed humour (surely the title itself is more than a little tongue-in-cheek?) and other such requirements as we’ve come to expect.

Indeed, as a horror film Hellbent is decidedly ordinary, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As said, there may very well be expectations towards something a little more transgressive, a little more inventive perhaps, yet there’s still plenty of novelty to the film nonetheless. The gay slasher film is such a rarity (unless you include the likes of, say, William Friedkin’s Cruising, that is) that the various horror clichés on display feel somewhat fresh within such a context. Of course, you could argue that Hellbent is only going to retain this freshness for as long as the gay slasher flick remains outside of the mainstream, but in the meantime it adds up to, at the very least, a potential rental for the curious.

The Disc

Shot onto digital video, Hellbent arrives onto the UK DVD market in the condition we should perhaps expect. The image comes across as saturated and marked by bright colours, whilst there are instances of artefacting during some of the darker scenes. But then this all makes perfect sense given its low-budget origins. Importantly, TLA don’t appear to done anything wrong in their transfer and as such the disc really can’t be faulted in this regard: the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is preserved and presented anamorphically; similarly we get the original DD5.1 soundtrack, again without any discernible flaws.

As for extras, besides TLA indulging in some cross-promotional trailers for some of their other releases, we also find a lengthy featurette on the film’s making and its own theatrical trailer. The latter is as you’d expect of course, and only a tokenistic presence on the disc, but the former is a little more interesting. Certainly, it’s the standard EPK guff which we’re privy to for the most part, but then it’s also a welcome presence given that we perhaps wouldn’t expect such an extra on a low-budget direct-to-DVD horror flick. Of course, you’re never going to watch it more than once – and in some cases you may not even make it through to the end – yet TLA should ultimately be applauded for putting the effort in nonetheless.

Anthony Nield

Updated: Jun 24, 2006

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