Hell Town is considered director Steve Balderson‘s first full-on horror project, although most of his films have dark aspects to them. Balderson (Pep Squad, Firecracker, Suck!) teamed up with indie filmmaker Elizabeth Spear and created Hell Town, a faux soap opera film that has generated quite a buzz throughout the indie film scene.
Hell Town is a 3-episode soap opera parody narrated by horror icon Debbie Rochon. As the story goes, the first and third season of the series were destroyed in a fire, with only the three episodes presented here surviving. Rochon puts just enough ham in her performance to make it a really fun one.
Hell Town is the story of the Manly and Gable family, the two most prominent families in town. Butch Manly, aptly named as he and his family are the stereotypical chest-baring, sports-dominating alpha males, returns to town and falls in love with Trish Gable, the blonde apple of everyone’s eye who also just so happens to be the blonde bedmate of just about everybody in town.
Butch’s interest in Trish is a real thorn in the side of the Gable patriarch as Trish’s father, played by Jeff Montague, is the one who got Butch booted from town – and into a cell for a while.
While this is the main storyline of the film, we also have another member of the Gable family madly in love with a Manly and it just so happens that father Gable learns that he’s dying. As any good father would do, he announces to his children that he will only be leaving his immense fortune to one of them. Nothing like some good old fashioned sibling rivalry leading up to a parent’s death, right? Oh, and there’s also a serial killer on the loose called The Letter Jacket Killer who seems to be killing all of the hunks in town. Think Dallas meets American Pie meets ‘80s slasher flick.
A black comedy through and through, there are several really solid aspects of Hell Town – most notably the special effects and the production values. Balderson took his time creating this film and it shows. The acting is exaggerated and the score is dramatically cheesy, but that’s exactly as it should be when poking fun at the soap opera genre.
While I’m not a big fan of oversexualized humor or the scene of a penis getting cut off with garden shears, a lot of people I know will get a kick out of that and I certainly wouldn’t give this film a failing grade for those few moments that simply didn’t hit home with me.
It’s clear that Hell Town was both a fun film on camera and behind it. Balderson is a fan of the genre and definitely didn’t go out to make an Oscar-winning film. Hell Town is a love letter to the soap operas Balderson remembers as a child and the horror films that he undoubtedly gobbled up while growing into the filmmaker he is today.
Rochon also unveils the trailer for Model Hunger, her directorial debut, during her onscreen time and that’s pretty cool to see.
Overall, Hell Town is a fun film that clocks in around ninety minutes and is good for some laughs and entertaining gore.