‘Hellbent’: Halloween’s Queerest Slasher [The Lone Queer]


How in the cinema world is there not a horror film that takes place during Halloween where there is just one lone queer among the characters? Perhaps, I overlooked it. Since that is the case, this spooky season’s Lone Queer will be a little different. It won’t just be a character that we’ll focus on, but instead, an entire film. A film that was for the longest time one of the only queer slashers set on Halloween, and a film that was for the longest time one of the only queer slashers. That film is 2004’s Hellbent

Hellbent follows a group of four gay men who are getting ready to have a night of debauchery at the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval. The friends, as well as the entire queer community, are a little on edge as two gay men were murdered the night before. Specifically, their heads were sliced clean off whilst parking for a little bit of touching it. The friends go about their night, but a man dressed as the devil stalks them. Devil Daddy (Luke Weaver), as he’s called, begins to off them one by one in gruesome and unique ways, leading to a final showdown with the last remaining friend. 

Seeing Myself in The Men of Hellbent

Written and directed by first-timer Paul Etheredge-Ouzts, Hellbent has been a staple for my Halloween viewing since its DVD release in 2006. For horror-loving queers in the aughts, this release was everything. At that time, it was still a very lowkey release. Not many people were outwardly aware of its existence. I only happened to come across it at my then-local queer bookstore, The White Rabbit, in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Upon my first viewing, I was around the age of the friends in the film. Their place within the queer community mirrored my own. Not only that, but I saw a piece of me in each of the four characters. Like Eddie (Dylan Fergus), a little unsure of how to approach or be approachable thus giving off a mere innocent side. Like Joey (Hank Harris), a little bit of a nerd. Like Chaz (Andrew Levitas), a little on the wild side, but still one of the friends that you could count on. And like Tobey (Matt Phillips), a little … well, okay, maybe nothing like Tobey. More on that in a bit.

Let’s Talk About Tobey

The characters are really what makes Hellbent what it is. The film could have easily given us one-dimensional gay men. But Etheredge managed to flesh them out just a bit more than that. They each have their own personality with their own quirks. With that, they also are perfectly placed into horror stereotypes. Eddie is the obvious final girl with his innocence and coy sensibility. Joey is the nerd who just wants to be noticed. Chaz is the sexually adventurous party boy. Tobey is the jock. Each one of them is portrayed with great exploration and gusto that gives the viewer a sense of urgency. But eh, maybe not Tobey. 

Tobey, an underwear model who just got his first big billboard, decides to go in full drag for Halloween Carnaval. Half of his dialogue is spent complaining that his masculinity shouldn’t be taken for granted so he decides to explore his feminine side. The other half of his dialogue is spent complaining that no one is noticing him while in drag, and how ridiculously hard it is to be in drag. He makes comments to actual drag queens about how hard drag is, but really, Tobey hasn’t the slightest idea. Heck, even Devil Daddy wants nothing to do with Tobey until he confronts him in an alley for ignoring his advances, and removes all of the drag components of himself. Devil Daddy then beheads him. 

A Cis White Male Perspective

Representation in Hellbent was, initially, great in the latter half of the aughts. It was a wholly queer horror movie. Looking back on it, now, the representation for anything outside of white cis dude is nonexistent. There are no people of color within the main cast. While there are a few side characters (restaurant workers, drag queens) who are POCs, they only appear in the film for less than a minute. There are no non-cis individuals aside from a few who enter a frame and exit in less than a minute. Hellbent exists within a white cis gay man’s world. Diversity would have made its world better.

While it is lacking in diversity, Etheredge made sure to do their homework when it comes to elements of horror. Most of the characters are stalked by Devil Daddy from the shadows, but when he goes in, he goes in hard. The film is bathed in reds, blues, yellows, and greens as if we’re watching a straight-up Giallo. Devil Daddy kills off the characters in situations that mirror their stereotypes. 

The Memorable Kills of Hellbent

A stand-out scene in the film involves Chaz, who revels in sex and partying, being sliced and diced in the middle of a crowded dance floor. Strobe lights and loud music drown out his cries. It’s shot as if the viewer is a part of the dance floor, intoxicated or high, blanketed by the strobing lights and house music blasting from the speakers. Another standout is the final showdown which is an intense chase scene with Eddie whose innocence and his insecurity about his glass eye are used to perfection. I can’t spoil that glass eye bit, but it makes me gasp-laugh every time. 

I’m honestly surprised that there aren’t more queer horror films set on Halloween. It may not be a part of every queer to love horror and Halloween, but we love to celebrate both of those things. There are multiple pieces out there about that very love, and each one of those pieces is absolutely correct in its whys. Petition for more queer Halloween horror! 

Queer horror has made great advances since Hellbent’s release. More and more films are being released that explore different aspects of queer people. Queer people of color are being more represented in horror. Trans men and women are telling trans stories in horror. The horrors of queer parenting have been shown in film. Drag queens have their stories told in horror. It’s not just a white cis man’s world anymore. 



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