It’s the 1950’s. A biker gang stop off at a roadside diner, just to cause havoc. A beautiful girl called Josie comes in to the diner and is set upon by the bikers. She is then kidnapped by the bikers and taken to the town of Hellgate. When they get to Hellgate, Josie manages to get off the bike and run away. However she is chased down and ruthlessly murdered by the bikers. Her father who lives in Hellgate witnesses the murder and kills some of the bikers.
One of the workers in Hellgate is down in a mine when he finds a mysterious blue crystal. The crystal carries a strange aura and has the power to bring the dead back to life. When Josie’s father his handed the crystal, he uses it to bring his daughter back to life. He instructs Josie to lure people to Hellgate so that he can kill them.
Fast forward 30yrs and we are now presented with three college kids telling ghost stories. They are in a cabin near Hellgate and one girl recounts the story to her friends. Another friend called Matt (Ron Palillo) is on his way to the cabin, when he comes across the alluring image of Josie. He stops to ask her if she’s ok, only for Josie to invite him back to her fathers house. Josie’s father discovers Matt and Josie kissing, becoming angry at the sight. Through some stroke of luck Josie convinces her father to spare Matt, leaving Matt to run screaming from the house. Matt tells his friends what happened and they head to Hellgate to investigate.
Now if I’ve made that sound at all interesting, believe me when I say it isn’t. There are so many things wrong with this film that I don’t know where to start. Firstly, the acting is just abysmal. I mean laughably bad. It’s like the cast are just mumbling through their lines, no interest whatsoever. Any attempt at drama or danger is so cackhanded that it’s hard to maintain interest. The script is terrible too, which for me just amplifies how bad the acting is. Ron Palillo who plays one of the ‘college kids’ was 39 at the time of filming, which doesn’t help matters at all. There is some clever gore, but it’s let down by some shoddy effects in other places. For instance when a bat springs to life after being struck by the crystal, you can clearly see the strings holding it up. I don’t know if all of the bad things are intentional, but judging from the director’s back catalogue, I’m gonna guess not.
However if the film itself isn’t quite up to snuff, fear not as there is a silver lining. Arrow Films never fail when it comes to delivering great extras and a sumptuous transfer. The picture is immaculate. There is no grain, and this is just from the DVD version which I tested. The extras are, as always, entertaining and informative. On this DVD we have three interviews. The first ‘Road To Perdition, B-Movie style: An extensive interview with director William A. Levey’ is a mixed bag. This is mainly down to the rambling nature of Mr. Levey. He begins talking about the film, then deviates into a discussion on the Apartheid, as the film was filmed in South Africa at the time. William A. Levey however just lets his brain run riot. He is obviously proud of his movie, though I’m sad to say I don’t share that sentiment.
The second interview, ‘Alien invasion, Blaxploitation and Ghost-Busting Mayhem: Scholar, Filmmaker and fan Howard S. Berger reflects on intriguing film career of William A. Levey’, is not much different in terms of having a rambling individual comment on Hellgate and other movies of William A. Levey’s career. This is not to the detriment of Mr. Waddell, it’s purely down to Mr. Berger, who mumbles and stutters his way through an interview, commenting on things such as how Ron Palillo was oddly cast as the male lead, and how Hellgate is a movie that should be shown to 6yr olds. I agree with the first comment, but not the second. The final interview is more like it. ‘Video Nasty: Interview with Kenneth Hall, writer of the Puppet Master series’. Kenneth Hall comes across as a likeable fellow indeed. He talks about the direct to video era of the mid 80’s to early 90’s where the lesser known film makers had to make do with moderate budgets and instead use gore and nudity to their favour, helping them sell movies that might not make it on story and acting alone. There is a lot to like in the interviews, some great trivia but some questionable topics of discussion too. This copy of Hellgate was graciously provided by the fine folks over at Arrow Films. If you’d like to purchase your own copy, then you can do so over at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk.