HellGate Review: No Specials in this Ghost Town!
Updated: Apr 17
Dir: William A. Levey
Release Date: 1989
“A young woman is abducted and killed by bikers. When her father finds a crystal that brings her back to life, all Hell breaks loose”
I started this as I was unsure if I’d seen it before. After 10 minutes, I knew I had, grabbed my notebook, and started it again.
What a mess of a film this is.
When nobody had a clue what they were doing making it then what hope do the audience have of figuring it out?
Saying that, there are some great moments of shit scattered throughout some painful cringe scenes.
Prepare to open the Hellgate!
Spoiler – there are ZERO gates in this film.
Along with the titles, we get some decent scary music and that stays pretty decent throughout, though somewhat all over the place.
We get no actor credits at all which is a bit weird but that is nothing compared to the rest of this movie.
The first line of the film appears to be, “….and bit Mike’s dick off”, which is the payoff to a story we never hear.
We’re in a cabin and this is Chuck telling a story by the fire to Pam and Bobby who fail to appreciate it. Only true stories are scary says Bobby after some bullshit chat and she proceeds to tell us one about the Hellgate Hitchhiker which started way back in the ‘50s……..
Cue the Shoo-wop music and a kind of flashback. I half expected Rick Moranis to be walking Skid Row in Little Shop of Horrors but no such luck.
We have a Biker gang (4 of them on 3 bikes) called The Strangers and they enjoy doing some slo-mo fist pumps and just riding their bikes. They enjoy this so much it is swiftly night-time before they arrive at their destination.
They establish their credentials by bullying locals and getting them all to leave except some old guy who is apparently one of them. The gang consists of Buzz (the leader), Zonk (the Muscle), Nervous Norman (he comedy stutters for his one line) and 2 other guys who I cannot distinguish from the IMDB cast list. One of them is the old guy I mentioned, and the other is a big guy with a beard who inexplicably bites a glass ashtray in half and then pretty much leaves the film.
Their general bullying and obnoxiousness is interrupted by Josie walking in looking like Sandra Dee from Grease (before she slutted up to attract a man) and asking for an apple pie for her daddy and some change for the gum machine. On her way to the gum machine, which is right next to The Strangers, she walks directly at the camera which uses the opportunity to perfectly frame her tits.
“Hey, wanna join us?”, is ignored so they grab her and lift her onto the table while also tearing off her skirt. At this point I can confirm that Josie (Abigail Wolcott) is certainly not in this film for her acting ability which she has seemingly gone out of her way to prove since she walked into the Diner.
She does, however, have a particularly nice pair of legs and the ‘body to die for’ which the film aims at.
Fun Fact: Abigail Wolcott is not credited as ever appearing in anything else but this film on IMDB.
Interrupting The Strangers’ fun comes the Chef bursting from the kitchen and looking like the Swedish muppet.
“Get outta here!”
“Who’s gonna make us? You?” is the response he gets until he raises the shotgun he clearly held.
“No! This is!” and then shoots his own place up as a warning to them all.
That’ll show them!
It seems to do the trick as they leave but they do take Josie with them which seems a little bit like his heroism was somewhat pointless.
We return to the cabin for this story being told by Bobby who offers us a now classic clickbait teaser,
“You’ll never guess what happened next…”
Chuck actually responds that he won’t ever guess for some reason and we are back to the action.
The Strangers arrive at the Ghost Town for us to see that it is actually a ‘tourist’ ghost town and populated, not actually abandoned like I thought. When they stop for no real reason, Josie escapes them and they circle her on their bikes. Lots of fun lines from offscreen as this happens,
“Ha ha, come back here”,
“There she goes!”,
and “What a sweet ass”,
They finally corner her against a cardboard looking wall.
“STRANGERS!!! Leave my daughter alone!”, shouts a voice and out steps a guy who looks just like John Astin as Gomez Addams.
This is Josie’s father, Lucas.
Buzz swings and throws a chain at Lucas at the same moment he launches an axe at Buzz. Both are incredibly accurate as Buzz takes the axe to the head and Lucas has the chain wrap around his left wrist. Oddly, this seems to hurt Lucas more and he cries out magnificently. Buzz meanwhile rides his bike straight into Josie and through the wall I mentioned earlier.
Her limp hand would suggest she is dead.
Lucas then shows his proficiency in knife throwing as well as axes and somehow gets one into Zonk’s leg before he just rides off back to town.
Back to the cabin for the wrap of the story. Buzz was never seen again. Lucas has hated Strangers ever since (clever right?) and some say his daughter is still out there, hitchhiking, and leading people to their death.
Bit odd seeing as this whole story really had nothing to do with hitchhiking at all but there you go.
Pam has never heard such a scary story and wishes her boyfriend, Matt was here.
He’s on his way and Chuck has provided him with superb directions. Immediate cut to Matt who is lost and asking for directions at the garage next to the diner we saw earlier.
Fun Fact: Matt is played by Ron Palillo who played Arnold Horshack in an American sitcom called ‘Welcome Home, Kotter’ back in the 70s which also starred John Travolta. Means nothing to me but it’s still a fun(?) fact.
Running this garage is none other than Zonk with some terrible aging make up on and a slight limp.
In the diner, Matt is approached by a waitress with awful make-up on.
“Hello big boy, want it hot and black?”.
“The coffee of course”
The waitress is black you see. It’s a visual joke and shows how irresistible Matt appears to be to the ladies.
He asks for directions but is told not to go there as it’s full of crazy folk and even the Sheriff doesn’t’ go up there if he doesn’t have to. This is confirmed by the Sheriff himself who is sitting in the diner wearing his standard issue sunglasses.
Matt eventually just drives off back into the night.
Bobby is telling the same story AGAIN at the cabin now and we have moved forward in time to when the Ghost Town has fallen on tough times.
Jonas is off on his caretaker rounds doing repairs and heads down the old gold mine to put a sign back up. He is attacked by a shitty toy bat (like House by the Cemetery but shitter) so he kills it with a shovel.
Jonas then finds a glowing crystal like in Superman and it fires a laser accompanied by a lightning bolt sound. This laser hits the bat and it comes back to life which still looks shit.
Jonas is outta there. With the crystal.
Lucas is playing with a toy train set and listening to ‘La Donna E Mobile’ by Verdi which is nice.
He looks at a large modelling photo on his wall of a girl. We get a superimposed image of Josie so we can tell it is her (it really looks nothing like her to be honest) and he goes to sit down to write something or other at his desk. He has another, smaller, copy of the same photo right by his desk which is a bit weird.
Jonas just walks straight in without knocking and starts telling Lucas the story we’ve just seen unfold, ending with a “What do you think about that?”. Lucas says absolutely nothing but picks up the crystal and somehow fires it at his goldfish. The water starts to bubble more and more and the goldfish grows until the bowl explodes. The mutated goldfish (puppet) wiggles about a bit and then it also explodes. Lucas then fires a laser at a dead turtle mounted on a wooden plaque (we’ve all got one, right?) and that also starts to wiggle a bit. Jonas retreats to the bookcase while Lucas decides the best thing to do is laugh down the camera and then fuck with the turtle until it bites his face. It hurts so much, that Lucas falls to the floor while the turtle inexplicably explodes and the crystal lasers Jonas who swells up to look like he has a bee sting allergy. We can only assume that Jonas also explodes but I guess they didn’t have the budget to show it.
Lucas heads off to the grave of his daughter seemingly in his garden. He now has some shit on his face where he was bitten and appears to be wearing a black oven glove.
Josie, meanwhile, looks like a kind of Han Solo in carbonite but with tit implants. We get a flashback to Josie running in slow-mo which is a total irrelevance, and the story concludes with us being told by Bobby that Lucas learned how to control the crystal and brought his daughter back to life.
Re-joining Matt now as he drives aimlessly in the dark only for Josie to have glowing eyes and he nearly runs her over. Taking her home, Matt passes the grave and a wolf howls. There are numerous wolf howls in this film and not one single wolf.
They arrive in the ghost town and everyone stares at them. Lucas is in the shadows (not the 1950s-60s guitar band) and we get an inexplicable Buzz who is trying to stay still with his mouth wide open.
“Ignore them, they’re just strangers. I’m not like them. I don’t belong here”, says Josie in her odd, monotone voice.
We see Lucas more clearly now and he appears to have some bits of silver plastic stuck to his face like he fell asleep on some Lego and it stuck.
Some extras even do the arms slightly raised like a zombie walk before we finally get to Lucas/Josie’s house.
Fun Fact: Everyone has a personalised license plate in this film. Matt’s is THEHERO.
He throws in a Herman Munster reference which wastes the opportunity to nod at the Gomez Addams similarity and she tells him to go away only for her to then say come inside as soon as her father drives up.
Lucas has JOSIE for his license plate, and this makes another wolf howl.
Josie is inside getting her legs out for Matt and they go for a kiss accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture which is also nice.
He pulls away and says he can’t.
They spill some wine on Josie’s white dress and he can’t resist anymore and goes for a full-on tit grab.
While this has been going on, Lucas has been sneaking up on them and is armed with a sword.
“You’d better go”, Josie warns.
“Are you sure?”, replies Matt who must be one randy bastard to think he might just stay in this scenario.
He is chased out and, as he drives away, Lucas grabs his crystal and makes a small, innocent tree explode in slow-mo for no real reason and then a water ski in the back of Matt’s car.
“I wanted him. I really wanted him”, says Josie and we head back to the cabin.
The license plate of Chuck’s Jeep is CHUCKEE.
Inside there is some impossible angle sex happening with Bobby lying sideways on against Chuck and smoking a cigarette. Bobby derides Chuck twice for being shit at sex which is thankfully interrupted by Matt finally arriving who had apparently been driving all night (like Roy Orbison).
Chuck is upset his water ski perished but not as upset as I was with the dialogue between the two of them. Basic Asshole banter which I refuse to repeat but I wished them both dead during it.
Well, Matt goes inside and tells Pam (remember her?) it’s a long story only to be led up the stairs to tell her in private.
You’ll never guess what happened next…
We immediately cut to them both naked, Pam is face down and Matt is sitting on her and massaging her back/ass, post-coitus I guess.
Both are sweaty, it is pretty disgusting but somehow gets worse.
“That’s the story”, Matt says which thankfully means we don’t have to relive it all again. The only thing Pam wants to know is, “Was she pretty?”, “Did she have a nice body?”.
Now these are no win questions, guys. No matter what you say, you are dead meat. He’s been lost for hours and nearly killed by a magician with a sword and all she wants to know is if the girl was pretty. Only way to avoid this situation is to pretend you have never even seen another woman since meeting your current girlfriend.
After some play fight, she goes all military, tells him to assume the position which means go down on her apparently, he replies with, “Down scope”, vanishes beneath the covers and she immediately goes cross-eyed.
Pam is not a particularly attractive girl and this look does nothing to change my mind.
As an extra and most likely unwelcome observation, surely Matt would be finding a total mess down there having just had sex a short while ago. Admittedly, I don’t really know if they used protection and I apologise for making you picture it. It just bugged me.
Back to the Diner where the waitress from earlier is still wearing awful make-up and generally OTT flirting with every man to the point of being irritating.
Chuck is not with them as he is back at the cabin, apparently watching Miami Vice!
Matt declares all he ever wants is to eat an apple pie on his own which seems to show a slight lack of ambition, but I think this sums up the level that the male characters are working on here.
The waitress mentions that Zonk was the best buddy of Buzz when they ask again about Hellgate but her blatant flirting makes everyone just climb into the jeep and leave.
Well, they drive off until immediately told to stop again by Matt at the garage next door.
More horrible dialogue now as Matt says “I dunno” as an answer to each reasonable ‘what, why, how’ question once they break into the garage.
Zonk has a poster of Patsy Kensit on the wall of the garage and a newspaper cutting with photo about Buzz who Matt recognises as the terrible freeze frame guy in the ghost town. He reads the story aloud for us while Zonk is sneaking up on them in the dark until grabbing Matt and throwing him through shelves and glass in slow-mo. This is ended by Matt demanding that they just talk which is emphasised by the accidental appearance of the boom mic in shot. He tells Zonk he saw Buzz and they’re gonna go back there which he doesn’t like and when they leave, he smashes his own garage up a bit more which seems to be a common theme in this place.
Miami Vice must have finished as Chuck now joins them in the Jeep for some windy driving. Quick flash of ‘Dream Josie’ as they arrive at Josie’s grave and a wolf howls.
They ‘treat’ us to some more shit jokes and some more lightning with sound effects. Matt’s Jacket is on the grave from when he nearly ran her down in an earlier scene and gave it to her.
Chuck touches the tits of the grave statue (of course) and more lightning. Quick shot of Zonk just sharpening an axe in preparation of something and back to the gang all laughing at nothing in the Jeep as they FINALLY arrive at Hellgate.
It’s been an hour!
As soon as they arrive, Chuck just fucks off immediately which leads to some false scares and some more false comedy shit. After a Wizard of Oz reference, they hear some music coming from the old Playhouse which clearly must be investigated. Inside, there’s a guy playing the piano (who for some reason reminded me of Terry Jones playing naked in Monty Python) and some old couples dancing a bit.
Only Matt and thankfully the viewer can see a naked Josie (thankfully not Terry Jones) walking amongst the old folk and beckoning him to follow. Lucas shouts something I couldn’t hear properly to the townspeople, and they emerge from the dead, again with some going full zombie walk and others not bothering.
The gang find themselves amongst several old cars which Chuck suggests they steal and sell them for riches. The others rightly tell him to fuck off and finally a zombie literally reaches out to them and scares Bobby. All the car lights come on and they see the zombies approaching making them run a very short distance.
Where to go when being chased by zombies in a ghost town? The Funeral Home of course!
Chuck is still being a dick and pulls back a curtain to reveal a dead girl who hands him a flower and tells him to follow her. Of course, he does, seemingly oblivious to Bobby still being there.
To her credit, Bobby does point out that she’s a zombie so it seems a fruitless pursuit. Even more so when the girl just walks through the wall and vanishes.
Josie’s nipples appear again, she whispers “Matt…” and vanishes again while Lucas takes their car keys. Matt apologises after finally accepting it’s all his fault. Chuck hugs him but the girls rightly don’t give a shit.
As is the rule, they decide to split up for some reason and, somehow in all of this, Bobby has twisted her ankle so will limp from now on.
Chuck sets off to look for the keys with a flashlight while Bobby watches. Quick shot of Zonk again still sharpening shit and he celebrates by stabbing a watermelon he happens to have on the garage worktop. Chuck finds the keys just as Lucas pulls down a sign saying ‘Shaves Beard 20c’ which is quite cheap, and we are treated to a slow motion decapitation of a white haired dummy with said sign.
Bobby screams and Lucas laughs as Chuck’s headless body runs off into the fog. Disorientated by the fog, Bobby limps off, an old guy looms out, cuts his own fingers off and disappears again (?!) and she makes it to the Saloon.
The piano starts again and the naked Terry Jones reappears (it’s still not him). Bobby is joined by Matt and Pam who ask where Chuck is. “Oh God, Oh Jesus Christ! Let’s blow this pop stand!”, is their reaction when they find out he’s dead.
Bobby, who seemed to be the sensible one up to this point now demands, “NO! We should stay here!”, like that makes any sense at all.
Matt and Pam decide to leave her alone (went well last time), get help and tell her not to drink as if we all knew she had issues. She apparently does as she necks a whiskey bottle as soon as they leave.
Matt and Pam have made it to Lucas’ house again and call the sheriff who is still wearing his shades in the station and at night. Lucas gets home, inspires a bit more lightning and cuts the wires to his own house. Matt sees Josie on the stairs, she drops her dress to reveal a small vest and underwear combo. Matt obviously follows her.
Bobby is still watching the dancing girls when Lucas suddenly appears there as well with a garotte rope which creates blood the instant it touches Bobby’s throat. When the dancing ends, we see Bobby is dead of an apparent bruised neck.
We head to the Sheriff’s office now which is tiny. Both cops are wearing their standard issue shades while a magazine with Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbechov on the cover sits upon the desk. Neither of them seem overly worried about the call they just received warning of murders and such as they are more preoccupied with the fact that Murphy was 10 minutes late on shift! I’m guessing they don’t mean Alex Murphy (Robocop) as he sure did seem diligent in that film. Needless to say, they say he can check this out as punishment, and they laugh like total idiots.
Lucas arrives home (again!), sees the silhouettes of Josie and Matt, says, ‘Stranger’ and heads inside. Pam is still just wandering about downstairs, opens the fridge to find a head in it. The head inexplicably begins to sing, “I-I don’t want my bod-dy” and, as the door is closed again, we are also treated to the unfunny line of “Pull yourself together”.
Meanwhile, back to Josie’s tits upstairs giving it all the ‘Darling Matt, we can be together forever, I’ve waited for you’ blah blah when Pam walks in with a gun and I cannot for the life of me remember where she got it from, maybe it was hanging on the wall or something.
Pam’s not happy with Matt and Josie’s shenanigans which prompts Matt attempting the oldest trick in the book claiming that Josie had told him that Pam was dead. This perfectly reasonable excuse is interrupted by Lucas coming at them with an axe and knocking Pam out before the axe somehow catches fire and he leaves again. Matt is in a daze on the bed, Josie is sat on him and is about to plunge a knife into him when Pam wakes up, says, “Get away from my boyfriend, you bitch!”, grabs the gun and just stands there so Josie can throw the knife into her. She lets out an impressive ‘Aaaaargh!’ sound and doesn’t drop the gun. Josie stands in front of a window which blows open with some force.
“Take this you zombie bitch”, says Pam as she finally remembers what guns are for and blows Josie clean through the now closed window (?) in superb slow motion.
Pam and Matt head to their jeep but zombies are blocking the way, so they steal Lucas’ car. Lucas is clinging to the roof in a classic cop chasing bad guy fashion yet he still manages to hold onto the crystal if you can remember that thing. As they speed through town, Lucas manages to blow up a shop, a random car somehow explodes and we are treated to a fully on fire man, which is always nice to see.
Matt crashes the car into a shop and Lucas finally slides off the roof again, in slow motion. He is clearly unhurt and re-emerges immediately with the crystal.
Stop the press! Who is this now, jumping onto the trunk of the car without explanation as to how? After a whole evening of preparation for the big scene?
He brandishes the axe in one hand, a machete in the other while waving his arms and shouting ‘Rrrroooooaaaaarrrrrr’.
Sadly, he is instantly lasered to death without contributing a damn fucking thing to the proceedings. The building Lucas is standing next to collapses onto his head and he vanishes beneath the rubble. As Matt and Pam speed off, a slow motion oven glove bursts free from the debris and, while the couple are attempting yet more shit comedy arguing, Matt sees the crystal in his rear view mirror and ducks. The laser beam fires, bounces off the mirror and explodes a couple of buildings in the town which look clearly like tiny replicas.
Matt and Pam drive off at high speed.
We see the Carnival sign with a hazy filter on the camera and Josie is walking through the town. She stops, turns and freeze frames for a 2-part framed close up.
Well, it was total nonsense but quite a fun ride and here are some things which are never resolved:
Did Jonas explode earlier in the film?
Can you really get a shave for 20c?
Why was the Matt and Chuck asshole dialogue left in? And repeated?
What happened to the other members of the biker gang?
Are you allowed to sleep with a pretty girl if she tells you your girlfriend is dead?
Did the Police ever actually turn up to investigate Chuck’s murder?
Why was Murphy 10 minutes late for his shift?
Why did Zonk have a watermelon in his workspace?
Why did everyone destroy their own property?
Will Matt ever get to eat an apple pie all to himself?
Why was there never a sequel?
This movie is available on SHUDDER
Zonk coming to save the day but being instantly killed before doing anything
Matt: “For once in my life, I would just like to order an apple pie and eat it all by myself”
Chuck’s decapitation and subsequent run away