I must have seen the VHS case for Hellhole a thousand times while perusing the horror rentals section of the local video store during the late-eighties/early nineties. I’m not sure why, but I never rented it, and, up until yesterday, it was one of the very, VERY few 80s horror films that had eluded me. When I received my review copy from Scream Factory, I hastily tore off the shrink wrap and threw it right into my Blu-ray player fully prepared to discover a lost horror gem! Instead, I got something entirely…different.
Hellhole opens in a suburban neighborhood home where Susan (Judy Landers; she of the insanely 80s-hot Landers sisters who were in pretty much everything made at the time) and her mother (Lynn Borden) are having an after-dinner gab fest prior to Susan leaving for her aerobics class. Susan bows out of the conversation to shower and slip into her pink Lycra and leg warmers while her mother finishes off a bottle of wine in the kitchen. It’s then that the creepy music picks up and we get a killer’s-eye-view of the exterior of Susan’s home, as well as quick glimpses of leather chaps, spiked wristbands, and a flowing silk scarf. It is here that we meet Silk (the late, great Ray Sharkey), dressed as a sort of cross between Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s bass player and a member of Quiet Riot.
Susan’s mother (she has no name. Just “Susan’s Mother”. Go check IMDB. I’ll wait for you… You back? Good! Can I finish now? For cryin’ out loud…) has something that Silk wants, and he is not shy about roughing her up to get it. Meanwhile, we get a quick peek at what is most likely a body double behind a near-opaque shower door letting us know that Susan is blissfully unaware that her mother is being tossed around like a ragdoll in the next room. Mom’s beatings are then intercut with scenes of Susan blow-drying her hair and listening to some ersatz 80s song, before, finally, Susan leaves her bedroom in time to see Silk strangling her dear mother with his snazzy red scarf. Susan flees, but, instead of banging on a neighbor’s door, she runs off to an abandoned construction site where she is pursued by Silk and, ultimately, falls from the second story of an unfinished house and conks her head but good.
We then see Silk (dressed relatively normal, now as he apparently saves his most garish outfits for skulking about homes and murdering their occupants) meeting with his “employers”, including Doctor Monroe (Martin Beck) who Susan’s mother had some nasty dirt on. Silk is surprised to learn that Susan has survived her fall, and is currently suffering from amnesia and being stashed in a local asylum that Monroe serves on the board of. Silk’s new mission is to pose as an orderly at the asylum and see what Susan remembers. Standing in his way, however, is a kindly orderly named Ron (Richard Cox), as well as the hospital’s twisted administrator, Dr. Fletcher (Mary Woronov), who’s hiding her own dark secrets in a nearby building known only as “the Hellhole”.
While it was marketed as a horror film, Hellhole has a lot more in common with the late 70s/early 80s Women-in-Prison flicks that clearly inspired it. Woronov’s Fletcher is essentially the “wicked warden” of an asylum populated by (mostly) gorgeous girls who are almost always in various stages of undress, exploring each other’s bodies, or slugging it out naked in the showers. Helping her maintain control of her “prison” are her team of elite, black-uniformed guards (led by Maniac Cop’s Robert Z’dar) – as well as her co-conspirator, Dr. Dane (Marjoe Gortner), who seems to fear Fletcher more than the prisoners do. It’s a gratuitous film in virtually every way imaginable, but it’s not particularly scary, gory, or all that smart either. Still, it’s kind of a hoot, and, if you’re Amish or don’t have access to internet porn it’s actually pretty salacious stuff.
Scream Factory presents Hellhole on Blu-ray in a solid 1.78:1 1080p transfer that’s culled from a few different sources of varying quality to give us the most complete version of the film possible. There’s a disclaimer at the outset which apologizes for the inconsistencies in said quality, but, to be honest, I really stopped noticing after a fashion, and, overall, the flick looks pretty darned good. Yeah, the added scenes are a bit on the ratty side, and the film, proper, suffers from a fair bit of excess grain, but the fact that this is even on Blu-ray at all, especially with this once “lost” footage, is impressive.
The disc isn’t a “collector’s edition” so don’t go in expecting a lot of bonus features. We do get a couple, though, including a vintage SD interview with Woronov, as well as the film’s R-rated trailer.
Hellhole wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but, as a fan of exploitation flicks and straight-up sleaze, I found a lot to like. Of course those looking for anything more than titillation and a soft-core porn quality plotline will be disappointed.