Starring Tracy Scoggins, Pavan Grover, Danny Kamin, Amy Morris, Edwin Neal, Larry Cashion
Directed by Rob McKinnon
A serial killer named Mr. Hell… A girl that constantly refers to her scientist father as Dr. Dad… An opportunistic villainess named Miss Horney… Let there be no about it – Mr. Hell is one seriously dumb slasher movie. Even a dumb slasher movie can be entertaining, but Mr. Hell has a wildly inconsistent tone that shifts from straightforward horror to brain-dead stupidity whenever it feels like it with no regard to the tale it’s trying to tell. The film seemed to be making itself up as it went along and constantly had me asking rhetorical questions like, “If they’re in a toxic waste facility, then where the hell did that chainsaw come from?” and “Am I really supposed to feel sympathy for people mourning over the loss of others that were planning to steal a bioweapon to sell to terrorists?”
This is the tale of Harold Eugene Loveless (Initials HEL – hence his nickname Mr. Hell), a serial killer we’re told had a 160 IQ, was charming like Ted Bundy and invisible like Jeffrey Dahmer, whatever the hell that last part means. The Mr. Hell you see in the movie doesn’t seem particularly smart, charming, or cunning. He’s just a white trash mass murderer flying under the radar as a maintenance worker at a toxic waste facility.
Mr. Hell opens with a prologue set 14 years earlier. This clunky prologue chugs along for nearly 25 minutes and is actually interrupted by the film’s opening credits. Much of this prologue deals with foul-mouthed Tyler, the trouble-making young daughter of, as she calls him, “Dr. Dad,” who runs the toxic waste facility that she’s allowed to run amok about freely including crawling through vents into restricted areas. Here she runs afoul of handyman Loveless, leading to him killing her father and, ultimately, his own demise in which he’s disintegrated by toxic waste. That well-executed death scene is easily the highlight of the film.
“Mr. Hell,” as he would be dubbed by the media, was no ordinary serial killer. He was big into the whole Satanism thing and working with the old adage that the eyes are the windows to the soul, he’d cut his victims’ eyes out, which he referred to as harvesting souls, and kept them for himself. He also wore an eyeball ring that apparently gave him supernatural powers despite looking like a prize you could get out of a box of Cracker Jacks. Don’t ask me to explain any of this, as the film never really tried to. What matters is that 14 years later, as the toxic waste facility is being prepped for a permanent shutdown, Mr. Hell will resurrect from a vat of the very toxic waste that dissolved him.
So now it’s 14 years later and Tyler has grown up to be an emotionally scarred young woman working as a security guard at the very toxic waste facility where her father was murdered and she had that fatal confrontation with the infamous serial killer. Other employees at the sparsely populated industrial waste dump include a Spicolli-type surfer dude gate security guard, two bumbling waste clean-up men so stupid one continues to eat a snack even after toxic green sludge has dripped on it, and her portly boss that goes from being her friend to cruelly ribbing her about her father’s murder to physically threatening her for insubordination and back again – what a great guy. Also arriving at the facility that day is a young government official assigned to oversee the final stages of the plant’s shutdown and to provide Tyler with a potential romance.
If the people working there didn’t seem ragtag enough, along comes an equally ragtag band of mercenaries for hire led by one Dominique Horney (pronounced Hor-Nay, although that doesn’t stop characters from making the obvious jokes), the young fed guy’s boss who chain smokes cigarillos while waving around a golden gun and demanding the key to the secret room in the facility containing the only remaining vial of a bioweapon described as a military manufactured flesh eating virus that makes Ebola look like chicken pox. Naturally, the plan is to sell the vial to the highest bidding terrorist organization. Why she needed over a half dozen heavily armed thugs to help her steal this from a facility so poorly guarded I’m willing to bet I could knock the place over with a 2×4 with a nail in it is another one of those rhetorical questions.
If that bioweapon ever fell into the wrong hands it could prove catastrophic. If only a growling, drooling, monosyllabic, hippie-haired, Brad Douriff look-a-like, satanic serial killer would rematerialize from a bubbling vat of toxic sludge for no particular reason, then maybe there’ll be hope for us yet. And so he does – HOORAY! Oh wait, I think he’s still supposed to be the bad guy. But most of the people he proceeds to kill are armed goons looking to make millions by stealing and selling a weapon of mass destruction. Who am I supposed to be rooting against?
One would think that the return of Mr. Hell would make the film more interesting. One would be wrong. Despite the numerous slayings, the second half of the film falls completely flat and not just because the movie has pacing issues. I didn’t care who lived or died whether they were innocent victims or equally dangerous terrorists, and I sure as hell didn’t care about the guy doing the killings. Mr. Hell himself is one of the lamest supernatural psycho slashers to come along in quite a while. Am I really supposed to be impressed by or scared by a guy that’s a dead ringer for Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF sidekick whose main personality traits are making unintelligible noises and sticking his tongue out?
Oh, did I forget to mention that the police never found what Mr. Hell did with all the eyes he cut out way back in his mortal serial killing days? Wouldn’t it be so convenient if they all just happened to be inside of a container that nobody ever found within the toxic waste facility where he once worked, and wouldn’t it be even more convenient if the only way to send Mr. Hell back to hell would be for Tyler to find this container and destroy it?
Mr. Hell is a movie that seemingly has the mentality of the Jack Frost films but lacks the willingness to fully commit to being outright silly. It’s stupid all right – hell, two of the terrorists find time from staging a bioweapon heist at a toxic waste facility to strip down and have sex – but the tone changes from silly to serious and back again with no warning or continuity. And I’m not entirely sure if the acting was truly terrible or if it was more a case of the bad dialogue the actors were often required to say. I’d guess a little of both.
While I admit that the terrorist aspect provided a different twist on the usual sort of victims one finds in a slasher movie of this sort, again, are we really expected to feel remorse when one terrorist cries over her slain terrorist boyfriend? The execution is simply hideous. Hardcore slasher fans might be more forgiving of Mr. Hell because it does deliver on numerous gory deaths, but as I’ve always decried when it comes to slasher films, there has to be something more behind it than just slashings, impalings, and dismemberments.
Mr. Hell might have been more entertaining if the makers of the film had managed to make up their mind whether or not they were trying to make an intentionally bad movie. The pacing is inconsistent, the tone is inconsistent, the acting is inconsistent, the characters are inconsistent… the only thing not inconsistent is the aggravation I felt watching it.
1 ½ out of 5
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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