Sunday, May 19, 2013

Horror Film Review

Hellgate (2011):  Ghost flick from Thailand.  Everyone speaks English so relax.  This is one of those times where the movie poster is more exciting than the film itself.  Dammit.  Not for nothing, but the original title was Shadows.

Jeff (Cary Elwes) is in Thailand with his wife and son to visit her father.  They're in a terrible car accident after leaving the airport.  The wife and son die.  After Jeff recovers, he begins hearing things and then seeing things.  Frightening things.  Whenever he's in a place at the exact time someone died unexpectedly or in a particularly emotional way, the trapped soul of the deceased becomes visible and audible.  And they want something from Jeff.  So Jeff's freaking out, of course, which leads his nurse Choi (Ploy Jindachote) to bring in her spiritualist aunt who tries to help but turns out isn't strong enough.  She takes Jeff and Choi to the middle of nowhere to meet the mysterious and reclusive Warren (William Hurt).  He explains that Jeff's soul is trapped in the shadow world with those of his wife and son and if he doesn't reunite with it soon, his physical body will fade away.  The solution?  Travel even farther into the middle of nowhere to an ancient "gate" protected by Buddhist monks where Jeff has to travel to the shadow world, pull his soul and body together, convince his wife and son to move on, all the while dodging cannibalistic demons who want to either possess him or, uh, eat him.  Piece 'o cake.

Thai horror flicks more often than not exceed expectations of awesomeness.  This one does not.  Why?  Hard to say.  Nothing jumps out that you can point to.  It's an overall sense of...blah.  Maybe there are too many Americans involved, a little too much Hollywood influence watered it down.  This doesn't apply to actors Elwes and Hurt, however.  This leaves writer/director John Penney whose previous writing credits include Return of the Living Dead III.  That, I think, is what's called a clue.


Acting:  No sour notes.  Elwes creeps near camp territory but doesn't cross the line.  Hurt's subdued and troubled Warren is worth the price of admission.
Story:  This take on the trapped-between-worlds scenario is interesting if not riveting.
Direction:  Here, I'm afraid, is where the trouble lies.  It is the director's responsibility to pull a film together, to make it work.  If it's a horror flick, he must keep up the suspense and scares while moving the narrative along.  In this case, the suspense is patchy when it's not nonexistent. 
Production Values:  They're fine.  Filmed on location in Thailand.  The budget was $5 million, so enough to keep it from looking cheap.  I bet a goodly portion of that went to Hurt and Elwes.
Gore/FX:  The demons are fairly gruesome, all pointy teeth and lacquered in blood.  Creepy eyes.  The little CGI utilized (ghosts coming through walls, etc.) isn't awful.
Scares:  A couple of minor ones.  Nothing to worry your dry cleaner.
Ending:  Happy, happy, happy.  Well, someone goes blind, but that's it.
Verdict:  Should you see Hellgate?  If you're an Elwes or Hurt fan, then sure.  Die hard horror fans may want to steer clear.  For the average movie goer, I can't recommend it yet neither can I say it's rubbish.  It's just so...

Rating:  3 out of 5


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