When I sat down on a tired Friday evening to watch this Western-themed horror, I admit, I was expecting something cheap and flat.  A screensaver with some blood and guts and a bunch of yipping gunslingers saving damsels and such.  Maybe I would get a few laughs at Blazing Saddles comparisons, etc..  So I hunkered down as the sun set and I sipped my moonshine, prepared for for the inevitability of turning off the movie when I got bored.

...dead wrong, Betty, dead wrong.  
The Burrowers (2008) is a unexpectedly wild ride through twisting unclaimed terrain.  The haters will say this is just another version of Tremors...and they would be the kiddies who look up the wikipedia instead of reading the book so they can look smart in their shitty community college classes.  Note: don't diss this movie around Betty. Why?

Because you can see when a movie is half-assed.  You can feel it when the actors don't care, when the directors are just collecting paychecks to buy another summer home in LA or the south of France or putting another notch on their lame resume.  Some of those movies make it to the so-bad-it's-good list.  Most are just insipid (hopefully) forgotten reels. But what I was taken by was that this movie is trying its hardest to put a new twist on a once-popular American genre that's more or less gone out of setting and style after the likes of John Wayne and Hi Ho Silver, etc.. That's why most of us (myself included) generally scoff at the idea of a Western horror, because its outside of the typical framework of where we are expecting to feel fear (haunted houses, spaceships, zombie-infested shopping malls, sunken cities, high school proms, republican conventions, honey-boo-boo and so on).   But this is a powerful mix of both those elements, with a message to boot.

After the savage slaughter/kidnapping of members of a pioneer family, local law and gunmen set off to discover what they believe will be hostile Native Americans or bandits.  What they discover is a creature whose history predates any tribe they might hold responsible for these acts.  The men, consisting of an Irishman looking for his girlfriend, a freed slave, some prideful Calvary dudes, and locals who sense something is dreadfully wrong with the initial assessment of the crime committed.  A girl found buried alive, in a state of paralysis, is the first signal they are not seeking a group of angry natives, but something far more sinister and - what surprised me - complicated. 

The creatures these men seek are killers from before Western civ came to the Western world, beings as brutally foreign to the posse as the land is to newcomers from the East.  Here we have hints of films like Alien, and yes, Tremors, if you must, but the main thread and connection to characters is unique onto itself.  My one criticism of the piece is that, I wondered if it was almost too brutal, that there was too much of a sense of hopelessness.  And also, I am never a huge fan of anything CGI, but I thought this was tastefully done in most parts.  It's all offset by the dynamic within the hunting party; there is a LOT more going on between the group of characters than just a simple manhunt, which makes the film a period piece in its own right.  Part of it is just the setting of the 'untamed' territory of the west itself, and how it must have appeared to settlers coming from what they termed as a civilized, orderly, and predictable world.  I imagine that the kind of pride and self-assurance needed to exist in such uncertain and seemingly hostile terrain must have saved and/or killed a lot of folks back then.  That same manifest destiny drives the group of hunters to a conclusion that I did not soon forget.  Watch this one.  It's a horror diamond in the rough. 

WTF = 26
W = 9
T = 9
F = 8




TRAILER - (as in the parks these actors now live in!)

Even considering that ghostly hitchhikers are about as frequent in horror as pre-pubescent vampires are in the red box; Hellgate is campy horror gold for the ages. For a movie that can only be purchased on DVD as a double feature to Canadian stinker The Pit, Hellgate is far more enjoyable than one would believe at first glance. With sex, senseless violence, and terrible hair choices; this film has everything that is essential for a camptastic kneeslapper. In comparison to a long line of campy, incompetent, ludicrous, movies that were so bad they were good; this film is so bad it's amazing.

With it's dollar store leading man, the late Ron Palilo of "Welcome Back Kotter" (insert Travolta joke) and "Little Clowns of Happytown" notoriety; Hellgate manages to present turn of the decade, brain dead youth in all of their flannel might; equipped with stereotypes for all races and creeds! The two-couple lineup of protagonists is so obnoxious that your wishes to see them slaughtered coupled with it's high likelihood is enough motivation for anyone to finish the film; much less love it.

This sizzling slice of 1990 takes place in both the then-present-day, and the 1950's; where the tale began. Piggybacking on the genre-heavy tale of the unjustly slain damsel turned undead pedestrian, the film introduces Josie. This ghost-to-be is a smoke show with abysmal acting skills in her only film to date. Josie is instant motivation for all male viewers; who will be aptly rewarded by no shortage of scantily clad and not clad scenes! Josie is promptly kidnapped from a picturesque 50s diner by "The Strangers", a ravenous biker gang, and a godless bunch they are.
An altercation with Josie's pops proves fatal for all but one of the sleazy bikers, leaving the girl crushed to death via motorcycle, and daddy disfigured and repaired with metal plates (no explanation for choice of metal plates over bandages whatsoever). The viewer comes to find that Josie's father is in control of a magic crystal that allows him to resurrect her ghost, and commit evil acts throughout the film. The origin or importance of this crystal is left as vague as all other seemingly important, but neglected details in the film; to great effect and the absence of explanatory bore.

Cut back to year nineteen hundreed and ninety, and four total boobs are renting a cabin out in the boonies. These utter morons tell one another the spooky Hellgate hitchhiker story of old; with poor acting  by Chuck, the largest of sweater-wearing tools. One of the female actresses looks like a poor man's Molly Ringwald, and the other looks like a person of no distinct gender. This is really a murderers row of pre-grunge 90s losers that you wouldn't mind seeing get murdered by the undead; in which case you're in luck!

Anywho, one of the nincompoops, namely Ron Palilo, is arriving late from "graduate school", when he has an encounter with the hitchiker; none other than Josie. Not to give too much away, but things obviously go completely to hell once the group stumbles across Hellgate, the perverted ex-roadside attraction of the dead, which is including but not limited to, exploding mutant fish, melting elderly men, crystals with dark powers, and the icing on the cake, zombies.

This movie has all of the intangibles that make a campy movie worth it's weight in fine luxurious cheeses; an overabundance of nudity, lawless sadist bikers, and a directorial penchant for killing main characters in brutally abrupt fashion! With the capable special effects staff of Hellraiser and HellboundHellgate has the weaponry to keep things interesting, albeit not the heavy artillery of a big time gig.

With laughs and occasional scares that are well worth the price of admission, synth-heavy soundtrack that will make you want to break out a white suit and do the Carlyle, and the most anticlimactic building collapse ever filmed, Hellgate definitely has more than enough cheese to please!

W -4 (not brilliant, but not trying to be)
T -6 (pretty decent job on the major effects, but not cheeseless)
F - 7 (thoroughly enjoyable)