Arrow Video Vault: Hellgate (1989)

The Arrow Video team dig up another long forgotten horror gem, this time from the director of Blackenstein and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington.

Based on these titles from William A. Levey’s back catalogue alone, you can probably already work out what sort of film Hellgate is. As usual with the large majority of Arrow Video’s blu-ray overhaul, fans of fine art and other high standards of cinema, look away now.

Barrelling into theatres at the back-end of the 1980s, dwarfed by the likes of Bride of Re-Animator and Puppetmaster, Levey’s Hellgate was largely buried by the public and its distributor alike, and for pretty good reason. Funny, yes, but otherwise this one is so cult even regular AV fans might struggle.

The bare-bones plot starts out in the late 50s, with the fairly brutal murder of an unsurprisingly attractive young woman (Abigail Wolcott in her only performance ever) before jumping ship to present day where she’s dug up by a magical crystal, wreaking havoc on tourists and unsuspecting college kids.

It’s a standard formula that puts it in line with a bunch of the other straight-to-video horror frenzies of the late-80s/early-90s era; the effects are cheap, the acting’s atrocious, there’s nothing here that’s particularly unexpected. But to the right audience (and we mean, the really right audience, even horror aficionados might find this effort a bit weak) Hellgate has its positives.

The whole thing is obviously super ridiculous. From Wolcott’s half-naked magazine posing during her initial death, to the sensationally awkward (and frequent) sex scenes, and the crazy-bad special effects work that makes even the 80s seem like forever ago, there’s plenty to laugh through.

Again, this does only apply to a very specific audience though, and even then they might have to be a tad on the bored side to sit through the whole thing. Because as watchable as Hellgate ultimately is, there are still nearly endless amounts of other low rent “fright flicks” out there that come off as significantly more entertaining overall.

As far as special features go, the team at Arrow have certainly given it a good shot, throwing in interviews with and about Levey himself, as well as weirdly one with Kenneth Hall, a guy with a story credit on the original Puppetmaster. But for Hellgate completists (if such people do in fact exist), the standard varied changeable artwork and accompanying booklet will certainly do the trick.

Definitely watchable enough for lazy Sunday afternoon entertainment, but maybe not worth the premium Arrow Video blu-ray treatment.

Hellgate is available on Blu-ray in the UK now.

Published on The National Student

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