2 stars (out of four)
Horror movies can be loathsome and disgusting, creepy and violent. They can also be weirdly funny, depending on your predilections. In "Hellbent," West Hollywood on Halloween night becomes the sex-crazed, fear-drenched setting for a shocker in sequins that takes some of the most gruesomely familiar plot devices and bloody shtick from the standard "Halloween"/"Friday the 13th" slasher shows and gives them a notable new twist.
Writer-director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts takes the well-worn massacre plot of all those gorefests, in which hot partying kids are stalked, hacked and killed by some costumed maniac, and resets it in one of the world's famous gay enclaves. Most of the characters--and all the victims--are homosexual, and the costumed maniac on a rampage is a bare-chested muscle builder in a metallic devil mask, prone to lopping off his victims' heads with a huge scythe.
His targets are a quartet of West Hollywood roommates on their way to the latest unbuttoned Halloween bash: cute shy policeman Eddie (Dylan Fergus), nervous leather-boy Joey (Hank Harris), happy-go-lucky bisexual stud Chaz (Andrew Levitas) and tall, pushy drag queen Tobey (Matt Phillips)--plus Eddie's "Wild One"-style motorcycle heart-throb Jake (Bryan Kirkwood).
Jake is a Marlon Brando wannabe, and most of others are played by actors who suggest Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon or both. And after the first four make the mistake of mooning the serial-killer devil in the woods, the gory game is on.
This isn't a particularly good movie, and it's offensive in the way mid-range low-budget slasher shows usually are. But it works better than some, largely because Etheredge-Ouzts has a more original slant and a deeper sense of character than horror movies usually allow. It's also something of a gay fable, with certain stereotypes (S&M, drag queen, bisexual) violently killed and discarded along the way to the violent, romantic climax. Trying to be "The Boys in the Band in a Nightmare on Elm Street," "Hellbent" does have the virtue of being different--if not too many others.
Directed and written by Paul Etheredge-Ouzts; photographed by Mark Mervis; edited by Stephen Dyson; production designed by Matthew Flood Ferguson; produced by Stephen J. Wolfe, Joshua Silver. A Regent Releasing/here! Films and Fangoria release; opens Friday, Sept. 23, at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema. Running time: 1:25. No MPAA rating; adult, (violence, nudity, sexuality, language).
Eddie - Dylan Fergus
Jake - Bryan Kirkwood
Joey - Hank Harris
Chaz - Andrew Levitas
Tobey - Matt Phillips
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