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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hellhole (1985) (Blu-ray)
Hellhole (1985) (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // July 26, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted August 28, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Pierre De Moro's Hellhole is an odd film. It opens like a slasher, and I assumed the rest of the film would be about the near-victim's revenge on the masked man who killed her mother. That is not quite what happens. Instead, the action turns to a mental institution where a demented, young, female doctor is performing unethical experiments on her keep. Said near-victim is there because she suffers from amnesia after her encounter with the killer and a dangerous fall. At times nothing more than a riff on schlocky "women in peril" films, Hellhole features more bared breasts than the average horror film. Is it realistic that the majority of the patients at the mental institution are attractive, nubile women? Nah, but what kind of movie did you think you were watching? As expected, the killer turns up to haunt his prey again, and Hellhole flounders between its various storylines. Mary Woronov is enjoyably over-the-top as the bad doctor, and Hellhole is an entertaining, tonally schizophrenic film that should appeal to most genre fans.

When a killer known as Silk (Ray Sharkey) murders her mother, Susan (Judy Landers) barely escapes from his grasp, but falls from a window and injures her brain. She winds up in a mental hospital under the care of a madwoman, Dr. Fletcher (Woronov), and her assistant, Dr. Dane (Marjoe Gortner). Fletcher tries to perfect chemical lobotomies on live patients, and ends up torturing and killing several of the women during the trials. She performs her experiments in the "hellhole," located in an unused part of the complex. Susan cannot remember the trauma she suffered, but recognizes a hospital orderly, who turns out to be the killer. Hellhole thus becomes a mash-up of camp, slasher horror and softcore porn, and the movie is one hell of an entertaining mess.

As Silk eyes Susan, he also has time to prey on the other young women in the hospital. Not necessarily to kill, but to ogle their young, naked bodies. Speaking of nudity, Moro never misses a chance to stage a scene in the showers, locker rooms and bedrooms of his characters, and the amount of female nudity here is laughable. Other than the disturbing opening murder, there are not a lot of traditional kills, though Dr. Fletcher injects her patients with a nasty serum that kills them from the inside out. When the medical board comes knocking, she has to keep up appearances, and enjoys pulling one over on the unsuspecting overseers. Genre fans will love the campy cat-and-mouse games between Fletcher and her patients, but may be disappointed at the lack of gore.

Most memorable here are the performances. Woronov, who remarks in the on-disc interview that she is shocked anyone remembers the film, clearly knows exactly what kind of film Moro is shooting. Sharkey's performance is unsettling and close to exploitation. The actor died of complications from AIDS in 1993, less than a decade after the release of this film. The characters are all melodramatic and hateful, and the dialogue is often gleefully dreadful. Moro goes for over-the-top drama and achieves it. The film is stylized and consistently campy, and is, if nothing else, thoroughly entertaining. Is Hellhole a good film? Not by miles, but it has the goods to pluck a certain string in the cold hearts of genre fans.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Before the film rolls, a title card informs viewers that this Scream Factory presentation is the best it can be despite the loss of the original negative. The Blu-ray was delayed following this revelation, and the transfer was ultimately created using the best interpositive elements and, where necessary, film elements from theatrical prints. The result is, surprisingly, damn impressive, and Scream Factory obviously put a lot of time and love into this presentation. Yes, there are slight variations in the image quality when these print-derived shots are inserted, but these minor fluctuations in stability and density are hardly noticeable. The image is remarkably sharp and detailed, and I was very impressed with the fine-object detail and texture. Colors are bold and appropriately saturated, and the film retains a natural layer of grain. Print damage and visual flaws are minimal, and Scream has wisely avoided noise reduction and digital scrubbing. I did notice very minor compression artifacts in darker scenes, but shadow detail is otherwise solid.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is effective, and dialogue is presented without distortion. The synth-heavy score is clear and layered nicely with dialogue and effects, some of which waft through the surrounds when applicable. I noticed only very minor popping when some of the rougher elements are inserted. English SDH subtitles are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray and a DVD copy, and is packed in a standard case. The two-sided artwork contains pictures on the reverse. Extras include a brief, but fun, Interview with Mary Woronov (4:54/HD), in which the actress provides some entertaining anecdotes about the film. The only other extra is the Theatrical Trailer (1:54/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This is a big ole mess of tones, bared breasts and campy exploitation. Scream Factory releases Hellhole on Blu-ray for the first time with excellent picture and sound and a fun interview with the film's evil doctor. For genre fans, this entertaining train-wreck is Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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