Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Saxon, David Emge, Amy Raasch, Edward Stevens, Robert Dole
Director: Douglas Schulze
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
A rural college campus is transformed into a bloody battlefield when Dr. Jones, a deranged professor presumed to have perished in a research experiment, returns to plunder his alma mater.
"Are you like a real nun, or is that your evening wear?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 01/09/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I often wander into the cinematic unknown bearing the hope of finding a, true, undiscovered gem, but usually my efforts are in vain, yielding something foul, odious, and more at home in a bedpan rather than your DVD player, as was the case with this film, titled Hellmaster (1992). Produced, written, and directed by Douglas Schulze (Dark Heaven), in his feature debut, the film stars John Saxon (Cannibal Apocalypse, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and David Emge (Dawn of the Dead, Basket Case 2). Also appearing is, well, a whole slew of actors you've most likely never heard of (and most likely won't) for good reason, specifically because they seem to lack any real talent or screen presence. I guarantee those with serious acting aspirations won't be too keen on using this on their resumes. The only other notable performer is Ron Asheton (Mosquito), guitarist and bassist for the band The Stooges, who plays a mutant nun (seriously).
I'll just cut right to the quick here as I really don't feel like spending the time or effort to detail the pointless material presented during the first quarter of the film (I figure if the director can't be bothered to do so, why should I?). John Saxon plays a former college instructor/researcher now evil incarnate named Professor Jones, who has since returned after some twenty odd years and is now utilizing a drug he developed back in the day to turn the homeless into an army (apparently four mutants equals and army) genetically deformed, baldheaded slaves, armed with police batons with spring loaded sickles, who travel around in a gray school bus (sort of the anti Partridge Family) with a large cross strapped to the front. Eventually Jones and his goon squad make their way to the Kant School for the Gifted, a gooberment funded institution where Jones had done his work in developing the experimental drug, its original intent to boost one mental abilities. He subsequently disappeared after the students who were being used as guinea pigs started dying. David Emge is a reporter who's been following the story, but, as a result, he gets too close and loses everything. He's now a homeless man who hangs out at the school's abandoned chapel, seeking revenge (I guess), armed with a crossbow that fires large hypodermic needles filled with acid. Things get increasingly screwy once Jones and crew arrive at the school and start killing off the students, apparently in a bid for world domination.
This thing, filmed in Michigan, apparently, is an absolute mess...the plot is about the least cohesive I've witnessed as of late, and is generally all over the place. The pacing is virtually nonexistent given the fact the story doesn't bother to follow any real structure to speak of as characters come and go, most of whom seem to have any particular relevance. Most of the students at the school are douche bags, which resulted in me actually rooting for the mutant freaks to kill them off as quickly as possible. I think the funniest part for me was during one of the poorly positioned flashbacks, which featured Saxon's character along with a colleague named Professor Damon, both of who worked at the school back in the day. We're supposed to understand we're in flashback mode, in this case, only because Professor Damon, who looks exactly the same twenty years ago as he does in the present day, is wearing a large peace symbol medallion (groovy man, this must be the sixties). The dialog is fairly ripe, as depicted in the sample exchange listed below...here's the set up...Joel, a student who's got the bum legs and is forced to walk around with braces, has the love jones for a comely blonde coed named Barb. Anyway, once the stuff hits the fan (i.e. various individuals die), Joel questions Barb about a statement she made after returning from the cellars that run beneath the school...
Joel: What did you mean when you said we'd die like those students did twenty years ago? What did you see?
Barb: I went to meet Paul and we found this room filled with cages and skeletons...human skeletons...
Joel: What were you doing down there with Paul?
Barb: Joel, this isn't the time.
Joel: When is the time? When do you have time for the cripple?!
There's some gore, but know a lot of the violence occurs off screen. I attributed this to the fact this was an extremely low budget production, as the filmmakers probably couldn't afford to show a whole lot of detail. The performances are rotten, especially those offered forth by the actors playing the students, but know the script certainly didn't do them any favors. As far as John Saxon, whom I like, goes, it's no big surprise the fact he's never been particular about the projects he participates in, as long as they include a paycheck. I've always thought he deserved better than much of the junk he's appeared in (including this dreck), but a job is a job I suppose. Maybe it sounds like I'm being too critical, especially since this was Schulze's first offering, but know he's since released another feature titled Dark Heaven (2002), which actually rated lower than this one on the Internet Movie Database (I'm betting the few, gushing reviews posted on both films there were done so by someone involved in the productions, utilizing various aliases). I'd also like to take issue with whoever did the audio mixing...music and sound effects are an important part of any production, but they shouldn't continually obscure the dialog. Oh yeah, here's something else...when you're establishing a location by using on screen text, best to make sure it matches up with the signage in the shot. Up front some text comes on the screen indicating we're at the Kent School for the Gifted yet the sign in front of the school indicates it's actually called the Kent School of Technology. It's not a big deal but it does seem indicative of the overall sloppy and shoddy nature of the feature. Oh yeah, the open-ended finale is the equivalent of pouring salt in a gaping wound. The thought of a sequel emerging someday is definitely more horrific than anything experienced within this film.
The picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1) on this Mackinac Media DVD release, is decent enough, but I did have some problems with the stereo sound. I don't believe the problems with the audio were a result of the transfer process, but more so poor sound editing, as often the dialog seemed muddled and often overpowered by music and/or sound effects. Surprisingly there are some special features including an audio commentary track with writer/director/producer Douglas Schulze and co-producer Kurt Eli Mayry, of which I have yet to listen to only because I have little desire to relive the experience of watching the movie. Other features include an interesting conceptual art gallery and a behind the scenes photo gallery with a decent amount of photos. The front cover of the DVD states this is the `unrated director's cut', but I honestly have no idea what that entails, other than perhaps some extra footage thrown into mix. If it's meant to signify something better than what came before, I can't even begin to imagine how rotten the original release must have been.
By the way, there is one bright spot within the film...it occurs about 22 minutes in and includes a pointless scene featuring a petite, attractive, brunette modeling some lingerie, the highlight coming as she removes her top...it certainly didn't make the overall effort worthwhile, but at that point I was willing to take what I could get.