A young woman walks into a diner and is accosted by a biker gang called ‘The Strangers.’ They put her up on the table and rip her skirt off. Well, the chef is having none of that, so he picks up his shot gun and levels it at them. ‘That kind of $hit don’t go down in here,’ he says. The chef keeps his gun aimed at them while the pick up the girl and leave the diner. That’s right; he doesn’t mind if they gang rape her, he just doesn’t want them to do it on one of his tables. I mean, people eat off that.
The bikers take the girl to Hellgate, an 1890s ghost town that has been converted into a gaudy theme park complete with Christmas lights strung across all the buildings, because apparently, the best place to assault someone is in the middle of a tourist attraction. Taking a cue from Last House on the Left, Hellgate just happens to be the home of the girl, Josie, and her father. The father throws hatchets and knives at the bikers, causing one to veer out of control on his motorcycle and drive it into Josie and a brick wall, killing them both.
Years later, one of the father’s employees finds a magic crystal in a cave. They use it on a goldfish, which causes it to turn into a foot long monster, then explode; then they try it on a stuffed turtle which causes it to come to life and bite the father’s face, then explode; lastly, the father uses it on his employee, causing him to grow deformed, then explode. After these successful trials, he decides to use it on his daughter, who comes back exactly as she was, except possibly a little more evil and at least partially a ghost.
And that’s just the prologue.
The father sends the ghost girl out to seduce young men and bring them back to Hellgate so he can kill them, which would make sense if she had been killed by a young man and not grizzled, middle-aged bikers. That’s how our four heroes get involved: two men and two women. One of them is named Chuck, and another is played by the guy who played Horshak on Welcome Back, Kotter.
Horshak is the young man seduced by Josie. He has a girlfriend, one of the two girls, but is constantly trying to cheat on her. Chuck is just as much of a D-Bag as Horshak is, and his girlfriend (the other girl) spends an inordinate amount of time insulting his sexual skills.
Somehow, they all end up in Hellgate, where the father tries to kill them all (I really don’t get why he wants to kill girls, even if they are unlikable).
Hellgate is incomprehensible. The plot makes no sense. The heroes are incredibly stupid, and the villains have no clear motivation. Even something as simple as the magic crystal has no internal logic: its effects are completely random, and is even used as a laser to blow up buildings. Hellgate is populated by ghosts and zombies for no apparent reason, one of whom puts on a cabaret show which somehow kills one of the girls.
The heroes are unlikable. I might even hate them, except that they’re too dull for me to actually develop any feeling towards them at all. They walk into danger for no reason and then die in dumb ways, and I don’t care.
The poster makes note of the special effects, so it’s interesting that they aren’t that impressive. The monster gold fish, for instance, looks like a muppet, and its transformation is done by showing the fish, cutting to the crystal, then cutting back to see a replaced fish. It’s all very amateur looking.
Hellgate tries to be funny and scary and fails at both. The plot is awkward enough to completely disengage the viewer, so whatever small merits the film might have had are lost on a disinterested and bored audience.
The movie is on a double feature DVD with The Pit, which is a much better film.