25th Mar2015

‘Holy Hell’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ryan LaPlante, Alysa King, Michael Rawley, Luke LaPlante, Shane Patrick McClurg, Rachel Ann Little, Reece Presley, Austin Schaefer | Written and Directed by Ryan LaPlante

Holy-Hell-poster

Taking its cues from the gloriously over the top madness of Hobo With a Shotgun and the early films of Troma, Holy Hell is the debut feature from writer/director/star Ryan LaPlante – and judging by this movie he is one sick, twisted and hilariously funny individual!

Holy Hell is a comedic take on the classic revenge movies of the 80s and tells the story of Father Augustus Bane, a priest who lived by the word of god – so much so that he doesn’t interfere when, during a visit to a family in his parish, a gang a sickos attack and kill them all… Pushed too far by the atrocities he has witnessed, Father Bane somehow survives his injuries and, plagued by guilt, he swaps praying to god for praying to a revolver, rescuing the only other survivor Amy and vowing to hunt down the gang who killed his parishioners and left him for dead.

It’s fair to say that the trend for low-budget, faux-Grindhouse movies isnt going to go away any time soon. After all the sub-genre has opened the flood gates for many a new film maker willing to use the low-budget aesthetics to their advantage and Ryan LaPlante does just that. His movie takes all the tropes and cliches of the genre, turns them to eleven, throws in a huge amount of blasphemy, a Dirty Harry-esque hero spouting catching one-liners and some of the most grotesque villains ever seen in any movie. If there’s ever been a film that lives up to the hype of its press release, it’s Holy Hell. Billed as a movie to break through every limit set by film, taste and reasonable societal behavior: all with anarchic glee, thats EXACTLY what this film does!

Yet despite the OTT outrageousness on display in Holy Hell, the film is – in many ways – quite tame. Instead of going for total nastiness, LaPlante plays the film for ridiculous laughs. So whilst there’s gore aplenty, most of it could easily be described as splatstick; so over the top that it remarkably becomes inoffensive. Well as inoffensive as popping out eyeballs, carving heads off bodies and slicing people open with chainsaws can be! And bizarrely, at least for a film billed as pushing reasonable societal behavior, there’s pretty much no sex or nudity – what sex there is is either off screen (the rape of Alysa King’s character early on in the film) or played for laughs (Father Bane and Amy’s “lovemaking” scene). Yes there are plenty of scantily-clad woman, and men, running around in the movie but nothing even approaching the kinds of OTT sexuality seen in other films of this ilk.

Any film of this nature rests on not only the no-holds-barred attitude of the filmmakers but also the cast. And whilst, yes, Holy Hell is Ryan LaPlante’s film – his performance as the Old Testament vengeance giving priest is certainly the cornerstone of the movie – the real star of the film (for me) is Shane Patrick McClurg as Sissy, the transexual daughter of the evil MacFarlane family responsible for many a rape and murder and leader of his/her own he/she army. McClurg’s performance is so glorious it really pops off the screen; the over the top, completely camp nature of the role reminiscent of other memorable cross-gender roles such as Frank N. Furter and I don’t say that lightly. Special mention must also go to Alysa King as the crippled Amy – to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever seen a such a sexy “wheelchair-bound, slut with a heart of gold” performance in my life!

By now I’ve probably seen enough of these kinds of lo-fi, faux-Grindhouse movies to fill a book, so it takes something special for such a movie to stand out from the crowd. Holy Hell does just that. LaPlante’s choice to go completely over the top whilst avoiding complete abhorrent nastiness pays off in spades and for those, like me, who have similar comedic sensibilities and won’t frown at some of the more OTT (some would say tasteless) scenes in the film – there’s a TON to enjoy about Holy Hell.

Death Wish meets The Toxic Avenger, by way of Hobo With a Shotgun. That’s Holy Hell in a nutsack nutshell.

**** 4/5

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