Hell Town. Wow.
Horror and comedy are two genres that suffer the most when they don’t hit their marks. Hell Town, directed by Steve Balderson and Elizabeth Spear, is a cobbled together mess of both genres. Balderson and Spear also handle the writing duties along with Michael Page and Chris Pudlo. Given the way the story unfolds, a pretty ingenious idea bubbles below the surface, so I’d be willing to give these fine folks another chance. But, with an obviously limited budget and inexperienced performers, the sweet gets outweighed by the sour.
Genre legend Debbie Rochon, who is the most recognizable face, acts as the host, introducing the film by sharing an interesting story that leads us to where we are now in the world. Apparently, we are being shown three episodes from a lost television show that goes by the same title, Hell Town. The interesting and sort of kitschy angle is that these are not the first three episodes. These are episodes 7, 8 and 9 of season two. As is explained, seasons 1, most of 2 and all of 3 were lost in a studio fire. The three episodes we get were literally dug up from the spot they were buried with a long lost relative of the creator. See? It’s not a horrible idea. In fact, it’s kind of original and could be really fun. That is, if the idea was successfully pulled off.
The film attempts to set up a “rich family vs. poor family” dynamic in which the sons of the poor family are all involved in one way or another with the “hot” daughter of the rich family. It all comes off like a fan written episode of Dallas with worse acting and even more unlikable characters. Krysten Day stars as Trish Gable, the supposedly still in high school, young daughter of the local, WASP-ish, rich guy. The problem is, everyone with which she’s ever had sexual relations is being stalked and killed by the “Letter Jacket Killer.” Since Trish has had sex with just about everyone, this ends up being a massacre. When her first conquest, Butch Manly, played by Ben Windholz, gets released from juvie, he immediately wants to rekindle their romance. On the other hand, Trish has moved on, but that doesn’t stop Butch from trying.
I’ll assume that you’ve already figured out any and every secret this movie may hold. The dialogue is so rough, along with the acting behind it, that I wanted to Carlos-from-Freddy’s-Dead q-tip my ears out. The character names? Well, there are such gems as Blaze Manly (Matt Weight), BJ Gable (Sarah Napier) and Mother Manly (Pleasant Gehman). The kitsch factor, while clearly incredibly high, is handled so poorly I was unable to get a laugh out of this movie. While the tawdry satire may be to some people’s tastes, the results are pushed too far making the tone silly and foolish instead of funny.
The camera, the editing and the sound choices don’t help either. I don’t know exactly what type of gear they used, but if they credited anything other than an iPhone or a 2002 digital camera, I wouldn’t be inclined to believe them. While it may have been technical problems on my end, the dialogue sync was about a half-second off, which makes me go absolutely insane. The camera angles were basically all dead-on, straight ahead shots. If you’re looking for anything artsy or flashy, that is not what this film is striving for. As far as editing, scenes seem to all go on too long and when there’s a cut, it’s so abrupt that it becomes jarring. I didn’t want to crap on this movie. I really wanted to like it, but I just can’t.
The jokes are all so juvenile, and at times severely homophobic, that I had to wonder exactly who this script was written for? If it was a Troma film from 10 years ago or if Lloyd Kaufman’s name was attached to it, I would have expected some crudeness, but what we’re left with just feels like a cruel and childish rip-off of the trash cinema of old. Decapitated penises, blowjob jokes, masturbation, glory holes and lots and lots of man ass seem to be the primary ammunition fired in an attempt to get the majority of the laughs. I found it incredibly shallow and insulting.
So, can I recommend Hell Town? No. Not one bit. Maybe, if you are taking a film class and your thesis is on how to prevent taking a good story idea and proceeding to completely cheapen and destroy it with bad acting, cheap jokes and spotty technical issues, then have at it! For Tom and Jane down the way? I’d avoid it at all costs. Story originality? A+. Everything else? F.
Hell Town (1 / 5)
Hell Town will be available to rent or own starting August 23rd on Dish Network, Cox, Charter, Verizon Fios, iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu and more.