Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.
Release Date: August 8th, 1990 MPAA Rating: R
Director: William A. Levey Actors: Ron Palillo, Abigail Wolcott, Carel Trichardt, Petrea Curran, Evan J. Klisser, Joanne Ward, Frank Notard, Lance Vaughan, Victor Mellaney, Lynda Powell, Kimberleigh Stark
n a dark and stormy night, Bobby (Joanne Ward), Pam (Petrea Curran), and Chuck (Evan J. Klisser) trade horror stories by the fireplace in their cabin up in Sierra Forest. While Chuck struggles for a fresh tale, Bobby offers up the unknown urban legend of the Hellgate hitchhiker, originating in the ’50s. As the myth goes, the rowdy Strangers motorcycle gang drives into Jay’s Diner, stirs up trouble, and kidnaps Josie Carlyle (Abigail Wolcott), a girl stopping in for a pie at an unfortunate moment. The bikers head to a nearby tourist attraction called Lucas Carlyle’s Hellgate, an 1890’s ghost town coincidentally governed by Josie’s father (Carel Trichardt), who comes to his daughter’s rescue by hurling an ax into gang leader Michael “Buzz” Collins’ (Frank Notaro) head. But this reckless act results in Josie’s death when one of the members retributively runs her down (and through a brick wall).
Back in the present day, Matt Coleman (Ron Palillo) journeys from Los Angeles to Sierra Forest to meet up with his college buddies. While they wait, Bobby continues with her ghost story. As Mr. Carlyle mourns the loss of his daughter, faithful handyman Jonas (Victor Melleney) uncovers a mystical crystal in a recess of a gold ore mine. The glowing piece of quartz appears to possess the power of resurrection – first working by re-animating the crushed body of an ordinary bat. When Jonas gives it over to Carlyle, he experiments on a goldfish, which swells to enormous proportions and exhibits mutant characteristics before finally exploding. Inexplicably not intimidated by this, the grieving father next uses it on a turtle, which turns into a zombie-like creature that chews a bit of the man’s cheek. In time, however, Carlyle harnesses the crystal’s power to resurrect Josie, who lures travelers into Hellgate for a bloody demise.
The film features pitiful scripting and terrible acting, but an amusing blend of upbeat oldies tunes (and the most out-of-place classical music) and a few scenes of deliriously odd makeup effects. And those effects were designed by the same team that worked on “Hellraiser” a couple of years earlier. Although the better examples of gore are underused and infrequent, it’s difficult not to be mildly entertained by the bloated goldfish monster and the face-ripping reptile. What isn’t so interesting is the abundance of conversational scenes, showcasing excruciatingly amateurish acting talents and unspeakably cliched dialogue. Characters routinely belly-laugh at their own repetitious jokes, which are entirely devoid of humor.
Nearly everything about “Hellgate” screams of a low budget and inexperienced filmmaking. Even the sex scenes and an awkward nude massage look incredibly fake. The premise primarily seems to be an excuse to repeatedly expose Wolcott’s breasts. By the time the picture devolves into a full-on zombie flick, the damage is done, with rampant continuity issues, editing blunders, badly placed slow-motion, completely random explosions, inappropriate actions and reactions, and nonsensical ghosts. As far as ’80s teen horror films go, “Hellgate” is one of the absolute worst.
– Mike Massie