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Hell's Gate (2002)
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by Scott Weinberg

"Derivative, silly, outlandish and dumb...but never boring."
2 stars

Movies about Jack the Ripper are nothing new. So when a young screenwriter was trying to pitch his new horror flick, he feverishly concocted some arcane plot twist and then morphed two older movies into one. This is of course only supposition on my part, but I canít figure out how else a movie this jigsawed ever got made. But heck, the guy got his script produced, right?

Best described as "Silence of the Lambs meets Fatal Attraction by way of Cape Fear meets What About Bob? with a healthy dollop of From Hell" (and no Iím not kidding), Hellís Gate is one wackily insane little horror flick that has precisely three things going for it: a cool title, a slick DVD cover, and the hell-screechingly gorgeous Patsy Kensit playing the bloodiest psycho babe this side of Mona DeMarkov.

Follow me here: contrary to popular belief, legendary stalker Jack the Ripper had an accomplice, a devoted and bloodthirsty girlfriend called Agnes. After a night on the town slashing throats and giggling, Agnes stuffs her homicidal honey in a big brick oven and bakes him like a stromboli. Flash forward to:

Present day. Dr. Trey Campbell, headshrinker extraordinaire, is perpetually stymied by one of his more vicious patients: a waifish blonde-hair, blue-eyed hottie who claims to be the reincarnation of someone called... Agnes! Not only is that psycho Agnes back from the dead (and in a decidedly shapelier form, the viewer thought appreciatively), but sheís just POSITIVE that Dr. Trey is the reincarnation of her dear old Ripper!

You may think that would be enough plot for one cable flick, but thereís a whole lot more. Letís just say that Agnes escapes, killing several people along the way, stalks Dr. Treyís lovely wife and daughter, kills a few more people, stages her own death, takes a few ferry rides, and then kills a few people. If Max Cady wore a bra, heíd be Agnes the Ripper.

The fact that Hellís Gate is at all watchable can probably be attributed to director John Hough. (Most straight-to-video horror turkeys are more boring than they are anything else.) Though heís been turning out similar schlock like The Howling 4 and American Gothic in recent years, Hough is also the filmmaker who brought us higher-quality genre-lite flicks like Watcher in the Woods, Escape from Witch Mountain, and the original Legend of Hell House. It was a smart move on the producersí part to at least find someone familiar with a camera to helm their silly little slashfest.

Much like any B-grade horror flick culled together from infinitely better films, Hellís Gate features a cast that will make a schlock supporter stand up and cheer. I believe I mentioned the heavenly Patsy Kensit (perhaps best remembered for her role as the love interest/sex toy/corpse/impetus for Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2) as the rabid psychopath, but the fun doesnít end there. Those who remember Ďthe good guy who diedí from the end of Starship Troopers will appreciate the appearance of Patrick Muldoon as Dr. Trey, while cinefreaks with a healthy long-term memory will enjoy the presence of Amy Locane, the cute blonde gal best (?) known for her roles in Cry-Baby and School Ties. Locane plays the beleaguered Mrs. Trey, and her performance ranges from "thoroughly unconvincing" to "howlingly bad" to "I donít care cuz sheís a cutie".

The important issue in a flick like this is this: Is it so bad itís good? Or is it just BAD bad? Thatís always a slippery slope, since I have a stunningly high tolerance for movie badness. To be completely honest, I had more than a few chuckles with this one, the gore bits are quite juicy, and the overacting is a royal hoot. A movie certainly doesnít have to be good to be entertaining. Some films are steak; this oneís a tablespoon of peanut butter.

"Hellís Gate" may be a pretty bad movie, but if youíve ever been curious to see what Jason Voorhees would look like if he were played by a supermodel, this oneís worth a look.

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originally posted: 05/01/04 22:00:26
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  23-Jul-2002 (R)



Directed by
  John Hough

Written by
  Douglas Clegg

  Patsy Kensit
  Patrick Muldoon
  Amy Locane
  Aimee O'Sullivan
  Damian Chapa
  Amy Huberman

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