|© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
A while back, I read about an online contest to name a new gay-
themed horror movie, and some of the suggestions (made by individuals
who hadn’t seen the film) ranged from the campy (28 GAYS LATER) to
more literal (TRICKS OR TREATS) to the eventual winner -–
Eschewing the ironic take on the slasher films of the 1970s and
80s that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson overlaid on the SCREAM
series, writer-director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts returned the genre to its
roots, albeit with a gay twist. He opens the film with a typical scene with
a pair of lovers who begin to engage in sexual activity only to attract a
homicidal maniac who kills them. American horror movies have always
equated teen sex with death (even before the advent of the AIDS crisis).
Here, Etheredge-Ouzts applies the same theory but with a campy twist.
As soon as the film opens with its studly lovers traipsing through a fog-
enshrouded wood in the West Hollywood area, the audience titters
Once the opening scene sets up the killer’s modus operandi, the
film takes a step back and introduces its four main characters, a group
of contemporary gay men in Los Angeles who live together. There’s
Eddie (Dylan Fergus), who works at the police station and more than
anything wanted to be a cop but was hindered by a physical ailment.
Chaz (Andrew Levitas) is the Don Juan of the group who will literally
sleep with anyone (he’s introduced having a threesome with a tourist
couple). Joey (Hank Harris) is the inexperienced one, desperately trying
to hook up with a hunky jock. Finally, there’s the muscular Tobey (Matt
The action of the film unfolds on Halloween, with the foursome
planning to attend the annual carnival in costume. Eddie opts to wear
his father’s police uniform, Joey gets done up in leather, Chaz goes
as a cowboy, and Tobey, in perhaps the least prudent idea of them
all, dons a drag, complete with long blonde wig, high heels and blue
The friends can’t help but visit the scene of the previous evening’s
gruesome crime and soon they’ve attracted the attention of the killer,
who wears a devil’s mask and goes around with his shirt off, the better
to expose his muscular torso. As the buddies attempt to make
connections with various guys (Eddie is especially interested in a
motorcycle-riding bad boy type named Jake, played by Bryan Kirkwood),
the killer is monitoring their moves and waiting for the moment to strike.
Etheredge-Ouzts has laced the script with character-based humor
and he’s managed to create four individuals that the audience comes
to care about before they face off with their assailant. Despite working
on a limited budget, the production is eye-popping and using an actual
Halloween carnival as a backdrop gives the piece verisimilitude.
The cast of relative unknowns is uniformly terrific with Fergus
emerging as the breakout star. (He went on co-star on the campy
daytime drama “PASSIONS”). HELLBENT has the potential for
crossover appeal. Despite its gay milieu, it has enough laughs and
scares to attract all audiences. It also heralds the arrival of a new voice
in film, Paul Etheredge-Ouzts.
Viewed at NewFest 2005 at the Loews State Theater