Hellhounds (2009)

JULY 9, 2010


I bet if someone asked me in 2009 if I thought I’d watch not one but TWO films about a guy going into hell to get back his girlfriend, fighting through several circles along the way, in 2010, I would have answered “Christ I hope not”. But here we are, a few months after Dante’s Inferno (the animated tie-in for the video game), with Hellhounds, which is live action but otherwise pretty much the same thing. The biggest differences are that it also rips off (the original) Clash of the Titans, and features the titular beasts from time to time (mostly in the 3rd act) to give it more of a horror flair. And, for the record, despite it being listed as horror by the IMDb, released with the far more horrific Maneater films, and being dubbed by Blockbuster as a “nightmarish shocker”, the horror elements here are even lighter than they were in Dante’s.

Instead, it’s more like a Halloween episode of Hercules or Xena, with a bunch of bland “tough” guys walking around and occasionally fighting some CGI monsters or each other (would it shock you to learn that one of the guys on the team is a traitor?) while loosely drawing from mythology. And every now and then they show the girl they’re all trying to rescue from Hell, as she pouts around while her captor hisses and bemoans the lack of a mustache to twirl. It’s all very generic; the only thing that’s kind of interesting is that she is gradually losing her memory as a result of her residency in Hell, so you get a delightfully silly scene where she forgets that the traitor guy is a traitor. But apart from the goofiness of it, I like that they at least sort of try to make it seem like going to Hell - even if you don’t deserve it - will have consequences. Of course, they pretty much deus ex machina this plot point out of the end of the film, but hey, points for trying.

It’s also one of those movies where a whole bunch of people die in order to rescue one of equal (less?) importance than they are (or were, I guess). She’s the king’s daughter, but so the fuck what? If he was on his deathbed and they had to save her in order to prevent the throne from being taken by some jerk, then I could buy it, but he seems pretty healthy. And I’m guessing all of these dudes were the best warriors in their city or camp or whatever the fuck it is (being a Syfy film, there isn’t much in the way of production value), so the city is also borderline defenseless while they go off on a mission to ensure the happiness of the main guy’s penis. And of course they all die except for him (and his little brother, aww), so it’s the least effective mission of all time. Hurrah! Our biggest hero will be busy macking on his new bride and all of his right hand men are dead. It’s like that scenario from Battlestar Galactica, where the President and pretty much everyone else under him died, so the Secretary of Education was forced to be president. You’re gonna have C level fighters in top command positions.

Ultimately, the most interesting thing about it (besides Blood River and Devil's Chair villain Andrew Howard as a good guy for once) is that it’s directed by none other than Ricky Schroder, who you all know from Silver Spoons if you’re in your 30s and NYPD Blue if you’re in your 20s. He doesn’t actually appear in the film, which is a bit unusual - actors rarely direct without their favorite actor in a primary role. And why the fuck would he be drawn to this snoozefest? There’s a reason why they usually have either long past their prime B movie vets like Jim Wynorski or complete no-names direct these films - they’re assembly line productions from top to bottom, with next to zero room for personality or even visual creativity. And he’s directed before (Black Cloud, which is a coming of age drama, and yes he appears in it), so what gives? Maybe he figured he’d use up his sophomore slump film on something that sucked for reasons beyond his control.

The DVD is hilariously minimalist, not even offering subtitles or the ability to re-watch the trailers at the top of the disc (you basically have to eject the disc and start it up again). But then I remembered that pretty much every RHI “Maneater” film that I’ve seen has been on Netflix Instant or screener copies, so perhaps this is just how they roll. But trust me, I’m not complaining - what good could a commentary possibly do? Unless it was just Schroder making fun of it the whole time (doubtful), it would just extend my bored time in the Hellhounds universe. But between this and Rottweiler, I think I’m going to give up on killer dog movies for a while.

What say you?

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