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Friday, 19 August 2011

HELLGATE (1989)

A ghost story told between college friends by a fire gives way to a flashback to the 1950s, albeit a cheesy, brightly coloured vision of the era. The events in this lengthy flashback set up the rest if the film in a fashion that can only be described as 'Beat you over the head with the plot points'.

A local beauty is attacked, and thirty-two years later the secret of the place it happened, a town called Hellgate, no less, a secret is uncovered by the college friends in the present and a zombie army is unleashed. Sounds a bit odd, yes? It is.

This entertaining but brainless horror movie plays like an Amateur Dramatics production rather than a feature film, thanks to performances that are cringeworthy at worst and flat at best (although the divine Abigail Wolcott is the best thing in the film as Josie). Some of these issues could have been improved with tighter editing or more snappy takes, as there's nothing particularly wrong with the film- it just places a little oddly.

Too much is going on for any one idea or indeed genre to stick. There's horror, comedy, SF and more all jostling for space within its 87 minute running time. That's the trouble- it has no idea which of these things the film need to be.

As the ghost story unfolds in the present day and a typically heroic stranger comes to town, a crystal is discovered that has the power to raise the dead (It brings a rubber bat 'back' to life), and thus the mayhem begins. Hellgate looks, sounds and plays cheap, but it has its charm thanks to the oddly cheerful atmosphere of the piece.

Behold, a creepy run-down carnival. Behold - ghosts, zombies and splatter. Behold - a stately home. It's missing a coherent plot (or even an incoherent plot, to be honest), but there is still some perverse delight in watching something so bad. There are some impressive bladder effects on show and some squelchy gore, but many viewers will find that Hellgate lacks pace or scares. A fun little watch, though, once it gets going.

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