Synopsis: South Africa impersonates California here in what is one of the more surreal and nonsensical films I’ve seen in the last few weeks. I think Hellgate might have been intended to be a comedy. I’ll just leave it at “intended.” Anyway, the late Mr. Horshack (RIP) stars here as the forty year old college student who is late to meet his girlfriend and another couple at a vacation cabin somewhere near Truckee. As the others wait for him by the fireplace they tell ghost stories. It happens that the area where they are staying has a real doozy: a girl was kidnapped by a gang of bikers a few years back, and was accidentally killed in the chase. But it was okay, because her father found a crystal that shoots lasers that bring the dead back to life. Also, he already owned a ghost town attraction, so he filled it with laser crystal zombies. While this story is being told at the cabin, the wandering Horshack meets the dead girl on the road and she takes him back to the town so her father can kill him, because that’s what they’re into these days. However, his charms are too much for her, and she falls in love and lets him escape. Naturally, he gets his friends who say, “hey, we were just talking about that girl and her father,” and they all go back into the ghost town which is now filled with teleporting zombies (Hellgate, like the title) to meet their probable but not certain doom.
Good: I like a good dollop of WTF, so I’m cool with the teleporting zombies of the town, the girl’s father who has pieces of metal bolted to his face, the biker who escapes the wrath of the father only to spend the rest of his life working at a gas station just outside of Hellgate, a talking severed head in a fridge, and what may amount to the only midnight floor show I’ve ever seen occuring in a movie where the emcee materializes and then conjures up can can dancers.
Bad: If you’re expecting this movie to make a lick of sense, you’re S.O.L. There’s no explanation for how or why the town was filled with zombies other than that we see the dad with his laser rock reanimating his daughter in the flashback. It was a tourist attraction, and then it was well, the gate to hell I suppose. Also, the main four characters act way too amused and goofy and not scared when they’re exploring the town, and none of the parts that are supposed to be humorous are. But who cares? We get to see some boobs and some more boobs, and a guy getting his head cut off with a sign, and a guy throwing a hatchet at another guy who is simultaneously throwing a chain at the first guy. I could’ve done without seeing Ron Palillo’s ass (RIP) but you have to admit that “Ron Palillo’s Ass” is a good band name,so there’s that.
Verdict: Yeah, sure, okay, whatever, bring it on. Hellgate. Can can dancers. South Africans doing their best American accents. Boobs. I will have forgotten all about this movie by the day after tomorrow, but I was entertained by it while it was on and it didn’t ask much of me. Sort of like tripping on magic mushrooms with acquaintances you probably never want to hang out with again, but who you’re laughing like hell with for tonight.
Did you know: Director William A. Levey aka The Head in the Fridge also directed not only Blackenstein, but also the film debut of my main man Patrick Swayze, Skatetown U.S.A. Thanks for giving Patrick his big break, Mr. Levey!
See also: Dead and Buried, which is a wonderful movie about a town full of zombies and the guy who created them, and it makes a lot more sense than this one. City of the Living Dead, which of course contains teleporting zombies and is much gorier and a little scary, but still quizzical in terms of plot.