Some have called it too campy, others have given it much praise over the years. However, by being an homage to the horror/slasher movies of the ’70s and ’80s, “Hellbent” is the most significant gay horror movie of our time.
In Western Journal of Communication, the film’s writer and director, Paul Etheredge-Ouzts, explains that “Hellbent” itself relies on the “traditional elements of horror,” and he defines them as “universally potent.” Elements of horror include the element of surprise, lots of gore and well, sex.
There isn’t an immense amount of man-on-man action, however, masculinity and its transfer of power is better exemplified through the present male archetypes themselves — the group of friends that partake in the fun of Halloween, then eventually get picked off one by one by film’s end.
The archetypes are simple-minded and likeable, enough to fulfill a gay fantasy. Eddie — the virgin, Jake — the bottom biker boy, Joey — the geek, Chaz — the sexual deviant and Tobey — the jock, band together to form a conglomerate of sexual perfection. Not only do their smooth, hard bodies add to the blatant reality that the gay community is unhealthily obsessed with beauty, but the element of human sexuality itself is a dominant character.
The boys head to a West Hollywood street fair on one of the spookiest nights of the year and are stalked by what seems to be an older gym rat-type for the entirety of the movie. The killer — a maniac in a devil’s mask — is after sex (so you think) and nothing more. The fact that — only later, do you find out — he is internally deformed himself, like most sociopathic killers who have graced us with their presences in horror throughout the years (i.e. Michael Myers), quintessentially makes him the enemy.
Some have argued that “Hellbent” is homophobic simply because the cast of gay men are offed…because they’re gay and different. In deep opposition, I say that’s incorrect because the killer isn’t playing with a full deck; he hides behind a mask, kills on the freest night of the year for the gay community then looks to homicide as he forges a path for self-acceptance.
The gay community is best know for jealousy and tumultuous self-loathing. Etheredge-Ouzts plays beautifully to the insecurities of the gay community overall. The moral of the story, in part, is that being different isn’t always easy. The otherwise hard-to-swallow life lessons are cleverly mixed in this film with horrific elements and thinly-veiled as a comedic thriller.
Justin Kerswell, of Hysteria-lives.co.uk, states, “‘Hellbent’ simply represents taking elements of any ‘straight’ slasher flick and placing them within gay context. There doesn’t appear to be any greater agenda.”
Kerswell also states that homosexuality has been around in the horror film since the genre began, but it was hidden subtextually and in “allegory.” Believe it or not, “Hellbent” is far more than a simple horror flick with gay characters. It’s a definitive film that takes its place within the ranks of the LGBT human rights movement; it’s right up there with Stonewall and gay marriage.
I strongly urge you, dear reader, to watch “Hellbent” this Halloween. It’s a film where WE have the sex and WE are attacked yet SURVIVE in the end. Essentially, WE took the horror movie back and honestly, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our community and gay characters in horror.
THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON GAYSOCIALITES.COM; THE PUBLICATION IS NO LONGER IN CIRCULATION.