** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- When the Night Belongs to the Devil, the Party Goes to Hell
Release Date- September 16th, 2005
Running Time- 84-Minutes
Writer/Director- Paul Etheredge
Starring- Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips
Released on the festival scene in 04 and a limited release in 05, Hellbent is sort of the typical low budget slasher with a slight twist; we have a set of guys looking to hook up, but instead if chasing after women they’re chasing after other guys. Hellbent is a gay themed slasher and sadly that’s the only difference between this and most slashers. The characters are the typical kind in these films who just so happen to be gay. While this film is obviously aimed at a gay audience I don’t think it matters what your sexuality is unless you’re the hateful kind. At the end of the day Hellbent fails at doing anything different than any other slasher outside of the gay characters. Quite honestly I really can’t see the target audience really feeling any different at least those who are fans of the horror genre. While I’m sure the target audience will appreciate seeing characters they can identify with, but I think most will feel the film was a bit subpar.
The plot has 4 gay men going to a Halloween party in West Hollywood where they end up being stalked by a killer and that pretty much sums up the plot.
The script by Paul Etheredge is rather weak and never different than any other slasher film outside again being focused on gay men. As for the characters, we’ve seen them before in a million other slashers and being gay hardly adds anymore depth to them. However with that said I did like the characters and found them entertaining despite being cliched. On paper the idea sounds better than it came out. But at the end of the day regardless of sexuality everything here we’ve seen before and the gay twist can only take the film so far. If anything since I found the characters entertaining sort of salvages the script, but its still subpar stuff.
As director Paul Etheredge doesn’t fair much better as Hellbent is poorly paced and cheap looking. While I get the budget is low, but that doesn’t excuse the weak production values. There really isn’t much in the way of suspense and scares and it seems having a gay themed slasher allowed the director to be a bit lazy as he figured he would have a built in audience. Perhaps that’s true, but the film is still weak and forgettable. With sluggish pacing and lack of suspense, Hellbent can be quite boring at times and the final act lacks any excitement as rather than speed things up it just moves so slow and seems to take forever to get to the action, which wasn’t very good to begin with.
The problem with Hellbent outside of being sluggishly paced is it also lacks an identity. While the characters are fun, but everything else by the book. Perhaps Hellbent will get over more with the target audience, but I still think the target audience will be bored by it. While not terrible, Hellbent is quite forgettable.