Triskaidekafiles

Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Hellbent (1988)

HELLBENT

WRITER: Richard Casey

DIRECTOR: Richard Casey

STARRING: Phil Ward as Lemmy
    Lyn Levand as Angel
    Cheryl Slean as Sally
    David Marciano as Tanas
    James Orr as Spike
    Phil Therrien as Duke
    Paul Greenstein as Willie
    Stanley Wells as Mr. Wells

QUICK CUT: A down on his luck rocker struggles to get ahead, and finds a great manager willing to back him and get the band off the ground.

THE MORGUE

    Lemmy - A very nice guy, his head in the clouds, and always thinks he's gonna hit it big some day with his band.  He's loving to his girlfriend, and while he's punk, he's sweet and hopeful.  Until everything goes wrong.

    Tanas - Why everything goes wrong.  He's a slick producer and agent, who seduces Lemmy to sign a bad deal, and uses less than scrupulous means to fund the band.  He also likes anagrams.

    Angel - Lemmy's girlfriend, and also in the band.  She loves him so much, and can only stand by and watch as he spirals downwards.

    Duke - One of Tanas's head minions.  He drinks, anything from alcohol to cough syrup.  He snorts a deadly gas.  He loves to sing, and he's a bit violent.  He is every perv goon stereotype.

    Spike - Another of the minions, who seems nicer, but as they say, the devil may wear a pretty face.  He's just as violent and foul as Duke, he just hides it behind a smile and nice hair.

    Sally - Another woman involved in this complex plot.  Her husband had a deal with Tanas, which leads to his death, and the kidnapping of her son.  She goes on a bit of a revenge plot that dovetails here and there with Lemmy.

 Hellfont.

Hellfont.

THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions!  Decmember is still going on, and while the next movie up for Trisking is arguably Christmas-related, I will be honest that the link is tenuous at best.  But it's more than a cooked bird in Savage Weekend, so I'm ahead of that, at least.  Anyways, next for my viewing displeasure is Hellbent, the story of a rocker trying to make it big, with a little help from, oh, could it be...SATAN??

I gotta say, I love any movie that gets started by a drunk hobo looking dude badly singing "Black Betty" while sitting on the Vasquez Rocks.  It's quirky, and unique.  His pals start joining in when their boss arrives to get the plot going.

We get through the credits and meet our main character.  I refuse to call him our hero, and you will see why as this movie goes on.  He's at best the primary focus of villainy.  Anyways, he's Lemmy, a struggling rocker, who can't pay the bills, can't get gigs, and can't get studio time.  Well, he CAN, but they're all crap, or cost more money than he has.  The band does not look like it's going to ever make it.

 Have any of you guys seen my partner?  Big guy, Mountie outfit, has a wolfdog?

Have any of you guys seen my partner?  Big guy, Mountie outfit, has a wolfdog?

Enjoy these early scenes where he seems upbeat, even amongst the struggles, and has a caring, loving relationship with his girlfriend.  These are not going to last.

Lemmy's music is probably close to punk.  It's dark, it's moody, and some of his lyrics claim he's a devil's child, Satan's son.  Be careful what you wish for, Lemmiwinks.

Meanwhile, the gang from earlier heads out, and one of them gets dressed up in a Santa beard and hat, to take out some poor guy as he's leaving a store.  He gets gunned down in front of a Santa display, and a woman gets taken out as collateral damage, as her baby wanders around the carnage.

Oh, the Santa display also has a bunch of letters, that fall and land, rearranging into SANTA.  How very, very subtle of you, Hellbent.  Of course, what do I expect in a movie about Faustian bargains that's already doing a song called Satan's Son?

 There's your Christmas content!  Nyoooom.

There's your Christmas content!  Nyoooom.

After all that chaos, Lemmy runs into the boss of the gang, who is also a manager, and he's offering to help the band out, take them on, and make them hit the big time.  Oh, and his name is Tanas.  This movie would not know subtlety if it came up, shook hands, and introduced itself as Subtlestein von Subtlety from Subtleria.

And the icing on the subtlety cake is that Tanas works out of the Bar Sinister.

After the gang terrorises the funeral of the man they just killed, and Lemmy's band get kicked out of the recording studio, Lemmikins can't take any more of the shit his life has become, and goes to sign on with Tanas.

He gets told to go through a door marked Keep Out, which continues to not be subtle, but I appreciate the symbolism all the same.  He also gets warned by an unexpected Harbinger to not go through the door.  Again, it's on the nose, but it works.

 How the world looks to Scott Summers.

How the world looks to Scott Summers.

Tanas hands him a contract and oh look!  It's all for the cost of his immortal soul!  But ahahaha, just kidding, just a little tort humour!  Tanas takes it back, and they negotiate a proper handshake deal.  They can take care of that soul business later!

Meanwhile, Satan's Cheerleaders are harassing another guy he has a contract with, which sets up nicely the seriousness and consequences of what's going on with Lembert.

Before we get back to our star, the gang swings by another guy involved with this deal, harass him for a bit too, and take him out.

 Seriously.  The lack of subtlety is actually rather amazing.

Seriously.  The lack of subtlety is actually rather amazing.

Lemmy shows up at the studio just in time to run into the gang there, they hang out for a bit, and just general weirdness ensues.  Tanas also shows up, and they try giving advice for new directions for the band, and Lemmy takes to drinking cough syrup on the advice of Duke.

His downfall is pretty quick.  In fariness, it's a short movie, but just a few sips of cough syrup, and listening to Satan, and he's already turning against everyone, getting drunk and violent, and being a dick to his girlfriend Angel.  Yes, Angel.  You know the drill by now.

Tanas decides to stir the pot a bit by introducing Lemmy to another woman whom he instantly starts making out with until Angel sees.  You can assume how much she is thrilled by that.

 Why is there a watermelon there?

Why is there a watermelon there?

Lemmy tries to justify it all with comparing it to Van Gogh's ear, saying you gotta be a little crazy to be famous.  Maybe so, but that doesn't mean you gotta be a dick.

After another terrible recording session, where Lemmy proceeds to get worse, Team Tanas take him for a ride along to the other guy's place they've been bothering, so he can see them at work.

They threaten and harass the guy, he tries to make a run for it, and it all ends in his murder, and the goon squad kidnapping his baby.  This still leads his wife to come home and be very confused.

 At least they were courteous enough to have that mess to go into the pool.

At least they were courteous enough to have that mess to go into the pool.

Lemmy has seen the light, and the horror, and wants out.  He finds Angel, freaking out, but all she sees is her boyfriend being a mess.  But at least he's seen this is not a good deal he has made.

He wants to straighten his head out, but Spike shows up to continue the last temptation of Lemmy.  Because somehow, being fucked up is worth it to be famous.

When Lemmy meets up with the band later, again, he drunkenly and flailingly goes into a rant about his next idea for a performance, involving angels and demons, and there's something about the energy and pace of it that REALLY reminds me of Skank from "The Crow" especially when he loses his concentration, and someone reminds him he was talking about his head being in a noose.  "I was in the noose?  *I* was in the fuckin' noose?  The noose...fuck me!"

 I ain't Lemmy!  That's Lemmy over there!  Lemmy's dead!

I ain't Lemmy!  That's Lemmy over there!  Lemmy's dead!

There is a bit of a B plot in Leminster's story, as Sally, the wife of the guy in the pool, seeking revenge.  She's met Team Tanas, and she knows her hubby owed them big, so she just has to track them down.  Which doesn't take her very long, because you know what?  These guys are not subtle.

She lures Duke off to a motel room with a helpless damsel routine, and that seems to be going well.  Surprisingly, for as drunk and high as he often seems to be, Duke is not dumb, and saw through her ploy right away.

The woman had a gun ready, but when she ducked into the bathroom to steel herself for what she planned to do, Duke found the gun, but lets her have it back.  Sally tries to shoot him, but he also took the bullets, because he is smarter than the average bear.

Duke gets the gun back, loads it up, and calls the rest of the gang to come have some fun with Sally.  Things don't go well though, as she gets the gun back, now loaded, and kills Duke.  She escapes, bumping into the rest of the group as they arrive, but she's long gone by the time they realise who she is and what's happened.

 Say WHAT one more time!!

Say WHAT one more time!!

With all this happening, Tanas decides to take a mulligan on the money Jones owed him, and tells the remaining loser squad to get rid of the kid.  And yes, he means 'get rid of'.  But that's a bridge too far, so they instead drop him off at the recording studio with Lemmy and Angel.

Tanas is also feeling a little bored with all this, he has a sense of ennui about him, and the guys later say he's sick and not well.  It doesn't quite come across, and it feels more like bored than ill.

Sally returns to Bar Sinister to take out more of Satan's Cheerleaders, and try and find her son.  She's clearly the Harrison Ford of this movie; wants her family back, and takes zero shit.

 Whoa, Black Betty...

Whoa, Black Betty...

Lemmy sees the kid, recognises him, and comes down to the Bar to settle this.  As he says, "It is time for me to straighten this mess out!"  Sadly, he is way too buzzed to do much than yell drunkenly.  And occasionally run.

He searches the dungeonous bar cellar, and finds Sally, who...actually doesn't need his help, mistakes him for Team Tanas, and throws him into the room she was in.  She swipes his gun and takes off.

Of course, this is all going according to Xanatanas's plan, since Sally knows where the kid is, and will run into Angel, and make things increasingly worse through the art of misunderstanding.

Sally kills one of the other band members, and mortally wounds Angel as well, as Lemmy arrives.  God, take this sweet Angel to thy rest...

 Do you really want to catch your breath under the number 13?

Do you really want to catch your breath under the number 13?

For all intents and purposes, Angel should be dead, but bear with the plot just a little longer.

Cops show up to the scene, and see the dead girl, and Lemmy covered in blood.  He dives off an overpass to the road below, now with the cops on his tail.

And this is kinda the point where the movie steps a bit out of reality, and becomes high camp.  It's my understanding this is deliberate, and even before this, the movie has intentionally been not quite in reality, ever since Lemony Snicket left Bar Sinister after not signing the soul contract.

But this is just odd beyond the rest of the movie, as Lemmiwinks finds a performance art group, gets mistaken for their guest speaker, which at least allows him to not freak them out since he's covered in blood, rambling, and jumps out a window.  THEY think it's great and all a show!

 Every year, the Lemmings travel for miles to jump out of windows to their demise.

Every year, the Lemmings travel for miles to jump out of windows to their demise.

Lemmy escapes the cops, but in his stumbling about, he runs into Sally, still assuming everyone works for Tanas, and shoots him repeatedly.

The ambulance arrivesto take him away, and Tanas shows up in the back, with Spike in tow.  He once again offers Lemmy take the deal and sell him his soul.  He is barely capable of comprehending, but they make him sign with a thumbprint in blood.  I'm pretty sure a good lawyer could get him out of this.  Where's a Daniel Webster when you need one?

Anyways, Lemmy lives, as does Angel as a bonus gift to the contract, but he's now blind, and singing more preachy gospel songs as a punishment for claiming to be Satan's Son but instead just being a false worshiper.  Still, they're alive, and together and...yay happy ending?

 Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name.

Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name.

OH right, before we go, there's still Sally to deal with.  She kills Spike, with a nice callback to Duke taking her bullets earlier.  She then confronts Tanas finally again, shoots him dead, but Tanas becomes her but then disappears along with the car, and she takes his pendant and...

I guess?!

Am I supposed to assume she's the new Satan?  Or it was all a mind game by Tanas?  I mean, beyond what it was.  The director and writer tried explaining it, but it still doesn't make sense.  It's weird though, and adds more than it takes away.

 It's kinda sad the devil is killed by a common bullet.

It's kinda sad the devil is killed by a common bullet.

AUTOPSY REPORT

Video: Once again, Vinegar Syndrome does a great job of presenting this forgotten bit of strangeness.  It looks really great.  The colours are maybe a shade dull, when they're not bathed in red, but that's typical of the era.

Audio: It sounds fairly good.  Something feels lacking, that I can't put a finger on.  The music pops though, and the dialogue is clear.  And those are the important things here.

Sound Bite: "What?  I came all this way to fuck a dead guy?!"  Random goon when he arrives on Duke's murder scene.

Body Count: This is a movie where almost no one gets out alive.

1 - A man gets shot by Satan Claus at about 5 minutes and 45 seconds.
2 - An innocent bystander gets hit too.
3 - Mel gets gunned down for the deal.
4 - Mr. Jones and me get killed in the swimming pool.
5 - Duke gets his brains blown out by Sally.
6 - Random band girl gets shot by Sally
7 - Angel SHOULD be dead, but devil deals save her.
8 - Spike gets killed by Sally
9 - Tanas as well.  Maybe?  He's Satan?  I dunno.

Best Corpse: There is something so satisfying about Duke's death.

Blood Type - C+: There's some good spots of blood here and there, and the headshots are all rock solid.

Sex Appeal: Random nudity throughout.  And let it be known, when Duke is harassing a woman at the club, taking her clothes, Satan tells him to be a gentleman and give them back.  Satan.  He's better than you at feminism.

Drink Up! Every time you are reminded that this movie is about Satan.  Goodbye, Liver!

Video Nasties: There's a bit with a medical examiner at the crime scene where Mr. Jones gets shot, and she tells Sally all about it in gruesome detail.  It's great.

Movie Review: The plot is basic.  It really is the Faust story we've all seen, it's a classic.  It really works with a rock star setting, that's for sure.  Contracts are built in to the tropes.  But there's a lot of weirdness here, some strange dodgy plotting, and I'm not sure you can just handwave it all around by saying "Oh, it was all some not quite normal level of reality!"  That only gets you so far.  The acting is actually surprising good, especially Tanas and Lemmy.  Lemmy may be a bit flaily, but it works for his situation.  But there's still an amateur nature to it, it's all a bit slapdash, and the plot is a bit of a mess.  Three out of five shots of cough syrup.

Entertainment Value: As is no surprise in these situations, while it's not a great movie, I do have this weird kinda affection for this movie.  It is a LOT of fun.  It's campy, it's weird, and it is delightfully...charming?  Tanas is a great Satan, the music is pretty decent, and I love the weirdness.  I've watched this movie three or four times now, and I pick up on subtleties each time.  I'm not sure how much is deliberate and how much is accidental, but there's a nice layering to the movie.  Four out of five contracts signed in blood.