In retrospect, it seems odd that it’s taken until now to have a gay-themed slasher film. While there are several movies floating around the sub-genre that deal with overtly gay subjects, like “Sleepaway Camp” or “Hide and Go Shriek”, it is actually only recently that a gay filmmaker decided to make a film featuring almost all homosexual characters for a mass audience. That makes a great hook for a film but does not necessarily make a good movie. Fortunately, “Hellbent” is a refreshingly straight-up genre flick with lots of blood and a few nice scares along the way.
After an obligatory prologue that pops right out of a reel of something like “Bloody Birthday”, “Hellbent” follows a group of four men at the annual Halloween Parade on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Eddie (Dylan Fergus), a wanna-be flatfoot stopped short by a nasty little disability (which plays nicely into an awesome set-piece) has his sights set on beautiful biker Jake (Bryan Kirkwood), whom he met shortly before the parade, only to flub his grand pickup line while Jake rides off into the sunset. Their reunion later that night at a bar sparks chemistry and begins the separation of Eddie from his friends, who begin to meet the sharp end of a strangely alluring killer’s blade.
Like a lot of other slasher films made during the golden age of bloodshed, the 80s, “Hellbent” doesn’t attempt to offer any answers to the killing, and it shouldn’t. Writer-Director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts has a clear understanding of the beauty of a slasher film. A formulaic genre, it’s not the blueprint that’s important, it’s what you do inside it that matters. There are tons of stalk and slash specialties that feature nubile youth partying, doing drugs, having sex and everything else the audience wishes they’d done back in the day, but if the characters are rock solid and the setup offers dynamic chills, we’re in like Flynn. And in a world of post-“Scream” horror movies constantly trying to up the bar on the witty repartee between yawn-inducing kills, “Hellbent” seems happy going right for the jugular with several cool, gory murders – and they all happen to characters we actually care about! There are several nods to some of the more memorable slasher films of the 80s like “Graduation Day” and “Maniac” (actually both of those references happen in the same scene!) and will appease nostalgic gorehounds the world over. It’s also proof-positive that almost 30 years after “Halloween” you can still make an awesome genre film that doesn’t feel the need to pander to the lowest common denominator.