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Hellbent (Richard Casey, 1988)
There was an awesome move toward independent film among the DIY punk underground at some point along the line. (One assumes it had something to do with Richard Kern and his prolific output in shorts starring punk icons in the mid-eighties, but I don't know for sure.) Directors shooting crappy flicks with handhelds popped up all over the American punk map. All of these movies are horrendous in technical quality, at least of those I've seen, but there is much to be treasured in a select few (Charles Pinion's Twisted Issues is my usual example). Hellbent, the second feature from Richard Casey (who would go on to helm Angry Samoans: A True Documentary with some of these folks seven years later), is in no way one of them.
Plot: Lemmy (Phil Ward, long-standing member of The High Lonesome) is the leader of a struggling punk band, with dreams of making it big-really, really big. He muses aloud about this after another disastrous gig, which catches the attention of the devil, who's just gotten annoyed with his current house band and cashed in some souls. He's looking for a new one, so he sends some goons around to start the long, hard road of corrupting the band. Half of them eventually figure out what's going on and try to get away, while the other half fall deeper and deeper into the devil's snare...
It's a tried-and-true storyline, and it's been done well any number of times-even with the rock and roll theme attached to it. (Even in real life; one wonders how recently Casey had read Hammer of the Gods, the briefly-popular-in-the-mid-eighties Led Zeppelin bio, when he started writing.) But aside from some amusing-if-amateur performances, nothing here can really be called "done well". The plot is kludgy, the writing amateur and over the top, the sets would have looked better with another ten bucks of the budget spent on paint instead of beer. Bad all the way around, though Ward and Cheryl Slean both come off as earnest and well-meaning, if untutored. Slean never acted again, getting out of the business for a decade before coming back as a writer/director; Ward pops up in the occasional flick. If IMDB ratings are to be believed, all are as bad as this one. (half)
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