Hellgate (1989)

DECEMBER 13, 2008


Since The Pit was so amazing, I had high hopes for Hellgate, as it was on the other side of the disc. It also starred Horshak himself, Ron Palillo. And a wax tourist trap figured into the equation, which brought along memories of, well, Tourist Trap, one of my all time favorite movies.

Unfortunately, it sucked.

I dunno how they could take all that promise and make a movie so dull, but that is precisely what screenwriter Michael O’Rourke and director William A. Levey did. By my count, there was only one inspired sequence in the entire film – when two older dudes point a rock at a fishbowl, which makes the goldfish grow and grow until it shatters the bowl and turns into a flopping mutant thing on a table. Then they do the same to a turtle. I was hoping that the rest of the movie would just be two old dudes pointing a rock at various marine life and seeing what happened, but instead, we go back to our four dull leads doing their dull thing.

And four is as many hero sort of characters we get. It’s not a bad number for a zombie movie (I believe Dawn of the Dead did just fine with a quartet) but O’Rourke and Levey seemingly refuse to kill them, or even put them in any real danger until the final 15-20 minutes of the 91 min film. And they never introduce any significant sub-hero characters to kill either, so the movie just treads water until then. There’s some nonsense with Palillo horsing around with a blond woman who is a ghost (or something, I actually got pretty baffled by some of the movie, just never in a good way), which makes his girlfriend mad, but that’s about the extent of the suspense until the final reel.

Back to the blue rock laser thing – it’s the most inconsistent magic implement I’ve ever seen in a movie. It always shoots out the same blue line, but the consequences change at random. Some things grow larger in size; others turn rather monstrous but don’t really grow that much. Some objects explode instantly; others just simply break in half. And then some folks just turn into the zombies that we occasionally see wandering around, but never seem to figure into the actual story.

And if anyone can explain the scene with this guy... be my guest.

Also, and I don’t mean to be mean, but the two girls are... how can I put this nicely... not very attractive. Come on, casting people – if you’re going to make a bad horror movie, at least make sure that the two girls who don’t do anything are at least hot, for the audience’s sake. One of them looks like Paul Reubens for Christ’s sake.

The uneven tone doesn’t help either. When you’re making a horror/comedy, the least you can do is succeed on one count, but Hellgate doesn’t even come close on either front. The only laughs I got were unintentional, stemming from the cheap-o effects (and the giant fish) and the movie is never the slightest bit scary or suspenseful (except, again, the giant fish, which kind of freaked me out since I am afraid of fish).

This movie must have been direct to DVD. The IMDb has no “box office/business” information, and BoxOfficeMojo actually laughed at me for attempting to find out the financial success of a (the?) movie starring Ron Palillo. So, what, three days into my “No more DTV crap!” credo, I’ve already fucked up. Oh well.

What say you?


  1. I agree that this is a disappointing B-side the fun "The Pit." I was also puzzled by the function of that funky crystal. I found this mostly unwatchable, but the things blown up by the crystal had their own creepiness. You can read my snarky write-up of "Hellgate" at http://scripttease.tv/video.

  2. Of course, shortly after I posted this, our webmaster changed the addresses on our site around. My Hellgate write up can now be found at http://scripttease.tv/trailer

  3. I just watched this piece of crap and it was 91 minutes that I'll never get back. How does one go from the very cool THE PIT to this piece of dung? And that crystal reminded me of the Stonehenge effects at the end of HALLOWEEN III, which made no sense either. I think the only crystal that makes sense where this film is concerned is crystal meth because that's what the filmmakers were on making this. Perfect review because I felt the exact same way.


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