Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hellbent

Illustration for article titled Hellbent
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Is it possible to make a horror film distinguished only by the fact that the protagonists are gay? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Hellbent, an exercise in slasher mechanics that gives the genre a twist that's ultimately not twisty enough. Opening with a scene taken directly from the slasher playbook, the film follows a hot young couple as they make out in a car. The catch? They're both guys. But who's that sinister figure lurking in the shadows? And what's he going to do with that blade?

Heads roll, literally, and after the news of the double homicide gets a surprisingly blasé reaction from the West Hollywood police department, it's at least partly up to Dylan Fergus to get the news out to the gay community. Fergus would be a second-generation cop if he hadn't lost an eye. Now he helps out behind a desk when not delivering flyers or hanging out with a gaggle of friends that includes hedonistic bisexual Andrew Levitas, model Matt Phillips, and meek Hank Harris. Putting thoughts of the murderer aside, they decide to hit the Halloween Parade, but soon they're menaced by the mysterious killer, whose muscled-devil costume doesn't look the least out of place in the middle of the celebrations.

Why pick on Fergus and company? The film never explains this, apart from the pack that they're the stars, and writer-director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts wants to stick close to formula. As the cast dwindles, Fergus strikes up a romance with Bryan Kirkwood, a leather-sporting rebel who might not be as tough as he acts. The love subplot, also keeping with formula, is pretty thin, and the suspense scenes look straight out of late-night cable, all quickly dressed sets and unrevealing lighting.

Etheredge-Ouzts throws some interesting ideas into the mix, but they don't really go anywhere. Tired of being perceived as a pretty boy, Phillips spends the evening in drag, looking for a man who's not just after his body. The fact that whoever he attracts might only be after an entirely different sort of body never comes up, but at least it's something out of the slasher norm beyond, obviously, all the boy-on-boy kissing. Is it a breakthrough for a gay film to aspire to and achieve mediocrity in a new genre? Maybe. But it has to be one of the lamest breakthroughs ever.