Have Cheetah,Will View #237 – “Hellgate” (2011)

It’s 8:33 pm

Some of you may know that one of our favorite studios is IFC Films and it’s horror arm,IFC Midnight. We absolutely love these two companies and I hunt relentlessly for them when I do my movie rounds.  While IFC Midnight is a bit of a hit and miss….my favorite film this year is here while the movie I disliked the most last year is here,both happened to come from IFC Midnight.

What is really cool about IFC films is the chance to see a lot of A-List talent do small film without the heavy pressure that the press and fans put on them. The films are small budgeted,rarely get played at your local 30 screen theaters and allows actors the joy of just ACTING! I can’t begin to tell you how many great performances I have seen in a IFC release that 99% of the general public isn’t aware of.
Take “Hellgate” which was released under the IFC Midnight banner. It stars an Oscar winner in William Hurt and a very versatile actor in Cary Elwes. Two names you wouldn’t think of doing a small tightly budgeted horror-suspense film but yet there they were.

Hellgate opens up with Jeff Matthews (Elwes) flying into Thailand to meet his family and visiting his wife’s parents. Jeff isn’t completely used to driving in Bangkok and makes a fatal error in judgement which results in his wife and son dying and leaving him critically wounded and in a coma.
He wakes up 5 weeks later in his father-in-law’s home where he learns about his family. He is shook up yet strangely aloof about hearing the news. His father-in-law has hired a nurse named Choi (Ploy Jindachote) to take care of Jeff as he slowly heals.
Jeff finds himself waking up and hearing a scream that sounds right outside his apartment,Choi comes and agrees to look but finds nothing. Jeff insists he heard it but Choi settles him down.

The next day Jeff starts to see images of people who have died violently,a man who hung himself,a woman who was murdered and later on,a man who has died by leaping off a building. He is shook by these visions while Choi starts to get a inkling of something darker. She has Jeff get a MRI which is clean but he still plagued by his images.
When the girl who was murdered begs him to help her,she grabs Jeff’s arm and leaves a handprint. It is then that Choi takes Jeff to her aunt who explains that Jeff’s soul is trapped in a shadow world,he is alive in both but unless he is reunited with his soul,his mortal body will die.

The aunt attempts to help Jeff but the dark forces are too much for her and she is nearly killed herself…..Jeff has one hope left and that is where Choi and her aunt take him,to an American mystic named Warren Mills (Hurt).
Mills helps the aunt recover but says that it is too late for Jeff,he has 49 days to reunite his soul and it’s day 47. Mills tells them there is nothing he can do until the aunt reminds him he owes a debt much bigger then her life which he just saved.

Mills explains that Jeff has to go into the shadow world and avoid the demons there in order to reunite his soul. He has to face a terrific ritual where the slightest mistake could cost him life and leave him in the dark.
Only there is something else more at risk then just Jeff’s soul and the demons are the least of his problems……

Did we like Hellgate?? Hell yeah we did!! Director/writer John Penney has crafted a very spooky and different kind of supernatural thriller then most of us are used to seeing. It helps that Penney is not a stranger to horror,in fact he loved and worked in the genre for over 30 years and wrote “Return of the Living Dead III” as well as the cult favorite “Zyzzyx Road” of he also directed.

Now when you talk about stars who do or have done horror or supernatural films,William Hurt and Cary Elwes are not the first two names to pop up. But the truth is,both have done some very good work in the field,Hurt has done “Altered States”  while Elwes starred in the “Saw” franchise.

Both men are really good in “Hellgate” and that leads me to one small minor sticking point and that is lack of character development. Both Jeff and Mills are suddenly dropped on the viewer without any background and it takes a lot of the film to establish that we like both men. Both are very brave and while Mills seems world weary,in truth,he has been waiting for this chance to help someone like Jeff for quite a while.

The Thai actress Ploy Jindachoate is the real sleeper here,her Choi is compassionate and very wise beyond her years. Its only because of her empathy that Jeff has a slim chance to being helped. Sadly it seems that Ploy has stopped acting as she has no credits past 2012.

“Hellgate” has a run time of 93 minutes and the only extra is its trailer.  This is a good solid film that both horror and non-horror fans will enjoy.
The cheetah and I both give “Hellgate” a thumbs/2 paws up.

What IFC Film release have you seen as of late? Drop a comment below and share it with us!

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