Calling itself the first gay slasher movie, Hellbent sparked a slew of copycat gay and lesbian slasher horrors after its release. Being the first puts the movie on quite a pedestal but regardless of the sexual orientation of the cast, Hellbent has huge shoes to fill in regards to slasher horror in general.
At the time of release (2004) the slasher genre was effectively dead, the brief revival caused by Scream having petered out. Found-footage and paranormal horror was on the rise and torture porn (Hostel – 2005) was right around the corner. Releasing a slasher in 2004 was risky even if it was geared towards the gay community.
Does Hellbent re-energise a tired genre?
Not really. In fact, if it wasn’t for the attention grabbing ‘first gay slasher movie’ tagline, few would probably bother checking it out.
Written and directed by Paul Etheredge-Ouzts, Hellbent begins with two men getting it on in a car out in the woods. Even before they get really hot and heavy, it’s incredibly predictable that they are both about to end up dead. Which they do at the hands of a devil-mask wearing killer. The number of slashers that haven’t started in a similar fashion could probably be counted on one hand.
We then meet our main character, Eddie (Dylan Fergus). Who is helping his police officer sister by distributing flyers regarding the murder. It’s Halloween and Eddie wants to be a cop so dresses in his father’s police uniform. An outfit that conveniently fits him perfectly.
Later he then meets with his friends Chaz (Andrew Levitas), Joey (Hank Harris), and Tobey (Matt Phillips), and they head for the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival. It’s while visiting the murder scene that they have their first run-in with the killer but he leaves them alone making them think he was cruising them.
He wasn’t though and as the night and party gets under way, the killer slowly starts to kill off the group.
Hellbent is very by the numbers and that is the biggest flaw with it. It follows a tried and tested formula when it comes to the slashing. However, it is fun and the variation we get regarding openly gay characters is interesting. A lot of this can be laid at the feet of the cast. A group who don’t camp it up and play things for laughs. We get a serious tone regarding certain characters difficulties and need to be loved. Andrew Levitas’ Chaz in particular is a bright spark. So much so that you can’t help but wish he was the main character as Dylan Fergus’ Eddie is pretty bland.
Like all good slashers, Hellbent is also pretty gory and the killer has no remorse in what he does. It is a smart decision to keep him anonymous as expectation is for a twist reveal. Especially as it is a slasher. Instead we just have a killer who has no motive. A nice surprise.
As a horror for the gay community, Hellbent can be praised. It’s not shy nor does it try to make fun of anything. However, as a horror overall, it’s far too predictable. It tows the slasher line way too much to really be memorable.
The Final Score - 5/10