Hellgate (1989)
Directed by William A. Levey

Starring Abigail Wolcott Carel Trichardt Evan J. Klisser Petrea Curran Ron Palillo

Surprisingly good low-budgeter from exploitation veteran Levey is reminiscent of the original "Carnival of Souls" and "Lemora: Lady Dracula."

Levey directed such brainless 1970s films as "Blackenstein" and "The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington." "Hellgate," however, is a genuinely eerie horror film, despite some ludicrous acting and goofy looking sets. My opinion is this film gets a bum rap.

The film opens with three grad students telling ghost stories. One of the stories, about the so-called "Hellgate hitchhiker" relates the tale of a woman who was killed by a group of bikers in the 1950s and now haunts the roads nearby. Her father, who discovered a supernatural crystal that can bring back the dead, is still running the nearby ghost town of Hellgate, populated by the spirits of all the strangers that have had the misfortune of passing through it. Naturally, the fourth grad student who is on the way to the cabin (Padillo, of "Welcome Back Kotter" fame) runs into the hitchhiker.

Levey's last movie is by no means a masterpiece. But it's suspenseful and surprising enough to make it a worthwhile watch. On a shoestring budget, Levey managed to deliver plenty of atmosphere and, although he wasn't given much acting talent to work with, made the film's simple grad student characters likeable.

Recommended. Although marketed as a "Hellraiser" rip-off because Levey did some special effects work for that film, it bears no resemblance to that movie. Star Palillo is best remembered for playing "Horseshack" on "Welcome Back Kotter."

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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