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Monday, October 30, 2006
Closet Monsters: Hellbent
Hellbent is the film that's been popularly branded as the "first gay horror film." It's a bit of an exaggerated identification, as there have been lots and lots of very, very gay horror films over the years. What sets Hellbent apart from the pack is that it's the first openly gay horror film, by an out writer and director and featuring explicitly gay characters.
In terms of being a horror film, Hellbent follows a rather cliche and well-trod path. Eddie is a gay police tech who hears about the brutal decapitation murders of two gay men in a popular cruising spot. He's tasked to hand out flyers to the community, warning them to be on the lookout for suspicious persons. On Halloween night. In the gay part of town. Yeah, that's an easy task. In any case, Eddie meets the rough trade of his dreams and he and his friends go out to cruise the Halloween party. Where, one by one, they're dispatched by a muscular, bare-chested man in a devil mask, until only Eddie and his trick are left to save the day.
It really is a terribly pedestrian, and frankly, rather dull slasher film, with an over-reliance on gore for it's thrills and a frustrating lack of any kind of personality for any of the characters, least of all the killer, who remains a cipher throughout the movie. In a certain sense, the film is a great success, because it does exactly what it set out to do: make a gay themed horror film as predictable and stereotypical as any of the other straight-themed torture and gore films can be. The only thing that sets the film apart from the pack is that the pretty people getting cut up are handsome young men instead of pretty young women.
Viewed through that lens, however, the film is more interesting than it should be. Most gay movies are fairly horrible, and while the fact that they tend to be budgeted poorly can take some of the blame, most of the blame can be laid on the fact that they only exist to try and court the gay dollar. I'm as guilty of encouraging this as any gay man (I do like to see stories that passably resemble my life from time to time, and playing "where will the gratuitous nude scene pop up" is sort of fun), so it's somewhat encouraging to see a gay movie that's not very good because it doesn't strive to elevate itself above the least elements of it's genre, not because it's pandering to a gay audience. Hellbent is a not very good movie because it's not trying to be anything other than a cheapie slasher movie, and that's refreshing.