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“HELL FIRE” (DVD Review)

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HELL FIRE, just out on DVD and VOD from Midnight Releasing, is the latest from New York’s Insane-O-Rama Productions, and lives up to the promise of that herald. Out of its mind and bloody as heck, it’s a jolt of adrenaline into the veins of the grassroots horror scene.

The wickedly sardonic tone is set in the opening sequence in which our antihero, the Antichrist (J. Scott Green), introduces himself and the four prostitutes who will serve as our heroines: Justine (Katelyn Marie Marshall), Rosetta (Selene Beretta), Destinee (Jennice Carter) and Cinnamon (Kasey Williams). The latter was a B-movie actress before she turned to flatbacking, and writer/director Marc Fratto gleefully treats us to glimpses of her trashy oeuvre before getting to the meat of his own more accomplished feature. The paths of the gals and the son of Satan cross when the quartet raid the home of their pimp while a lucrative drug deal is supposed to be going down. Things go violently awry, as such things tend to do, and the ladies hole up in a house in the woods with the Antichrist as their captive.

HELLFIREDVDREVKidnapping the devil’s offspring is a very bad idea, needless to say, and Fratto develops this exploitation-natural concept in all sorts of twisted, horrific and gruesomely comic directions. The Antichrist messes with the girls’ minds (though his other satanic powers prove not to be all they’re cracked up to be), they start turning on each other for that and other reasons and a few supporting characters show up to take part in the mayhem as well. Our heroines all absorb more abuse than any human being reasonably could and keep on ticking, and Justine is the only one you can really sympathize with, but all four actresses throw themselves into their roles with such abandon, and aggressive personalities, that they’re a treat to watch.

Green brings plenty of wicked charisma to his evildoer, and Fratto captures all the action and gore (fine makeup FX by Melissa Roth) with impactful camera angles and dynamic editing, throwing in homages to similarly vigorous forebears like THE EVIL DEAD and DEMONS along the way. There are moments when the brutality threatens to go over the top even for a mad movie like this, yet Fratto keeps the sadism in check through his well-handled modulation of horror and humor and by having all the women give as well as they get. The heightened tone is complemented by the harsh, color-saturated, high-contrast visual scheme that’s appropriately vivid in the DVD’s widescreen transfer.

Fratto, producer Frank Garfi and their five leads sit down for a commentary that begins with the sound of a beer being opened, and is expectedly raucous albeit focused throughout. It’s a nonstop string of anecdotes as the gang enthusiastically react to and recall all the carnage they created, and the fun they had both during and in between enacting it. Those seeking nuts-and-bolts indie production information will get a sufficient amount, and anyone who’s watched the movie will be surprised to learn that, through all the violent confrontations staged at the main house location, only one chair got broken (though the cleanup must have been a bitch).

The other extras are a collection of deleted scenes, outtakes, etc. titled “Fun Shit”—about 15 minutes of amusing attitude, improvisations and pop-culture references—and “The Movies of Cinnamon,” lengthier excerpts from the character’s many schlock flicks for which Fratto and co. seem to have employed every hot actress in the New York area. While the likes of MAXINE FREEZE: UNDERCOVER SPYBITCH, HOBOTS 2: LOOSE SCREWS, ALL-GIRL SCHOOL OF LESBIAN VAMPIRES (with the immortal line “Even a third wheel needs to be greased once in a while”) and THE SIX RETARDED SONS OF SATAN are clearly intended to spoof the lower-end DIY genre product that HELL FIRE rises high above, a few of them suggest that something pretty entertaining might result if this team truly applied themselves to, say, NINJA NUNS or the SCHOOLGIRL BATTLEGROUND trilogy. The third of these is subtitled BAD GIRLS, GOOD TIMES, which is a pretty succinct and accurate description of HELL FIRE itself.

MOVIE: 3_skull

DVD PACKAGE: 3.5_skull

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.
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