03rd Feb2014

‘Hellgate’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Ron Palillo, Abigail Wolcott, Carel Trichardt, Petrea Curran, Evan J. Klisser, Joanne Warde, Frank Notaro, Lance Vaughan, Victor Melleney | Written by Michael O’Rourke | Directed by William A. Levey


So, Arrow Video have gone and done it again, released a movie from the 80’s that many people think of as pure garbage but some people, a niche group of cult horror film fans, look at as a little gem in the realm of “so bad it’s good”.

Hellgate was released at the very back end of the 1980’s, written by Michael O’Rourke and directed by William A. Levey (Blackenstein) and featured, as it’s selling point and headline act, the late Ron Palillo (Welcome Back, Kotter), an actor who had been mostly known for his work in television sit-coms and bit-parts on drama shows and low-budget films. Palillo plays, for lack of a better term, the “stud” of the movie, and we even get to see him, straddling and wiggling in his birthday suit, a disturbing moment in cinema, for sure. His performance is lacklustre like the rest of the performances in the film, but once you get used to it… actually, scrap that, you never get used to it, it’s just horrendous acting, from beginning to end.

Anyway, let’s talk about the “story”, shall we? Hellgate has that “group of friends in a cabin” thing going on, with friends telling scary stories until one of the stories turns out to have relevance to the film, and we learn about a girl who was killed by a group of bikers, reanimated by her father using a crystal, who proceeds to have his reanimated and murdered offspring lure men to a house and kill them. The story follows on from that point, with the “hero-straddling-sit-com-stud” Matt (Palillo) bumping into the girl in question. What ensues is a kind-of-zombie-movie, and a weird one at that.

It is cheesy, but that doesn’t really cut it as a metaphor for what actually occurs in front of your eyes here. It is just completely bonkers and the acting is just so damn stupid it is hard to imagine why the director didn’t yell “cut” more often or maybe just once or twice, to get a better scene. Maybe he did, in which case, I cannot imagine what went in the bin on those days.

If you go into this film expecting atmosphere, tension, cinematography, dialogue worth listening to, a score worth hearing, people worth watching or any sort of moment that will make you gasp in horror, then I’d give it a miss. This is one of those films that requires complete access to your open mind and a willingness to enjoy bad direction, poor performances and a silly storyline.

Arrow have put out some wonderful releases but I’d be lying if I said this was one of them. It wasn’t really necessary to give this film a new release on a label known mostly for quality. Still, it looks good and the cover art is very nice, as usual. The special features are well worth checking out here too, with extensive interviews with the director and footage of filmmakers and fans discussing the film and the era that it was released in. These interviews are worth the price of admission really, and prove that Arrow do offer a lot more than many companies when it comes to the extras they offer.

Hellgate is available from today on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video.


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