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Artisan Home Entertainment presents

Hell's Gate (2002)

"Making mistakes is how we learn. It's only bad if you make the same mistake over and over again."- Trey Campbell (Patrick Muldoon)

Stars: Patsy Kensit, Patrick Muldoon
Other Stars: Amy Locane
Director: John Hough

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore and sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 01h:32m:13s
Release Date: 2002-07-23
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+C+B- C


DVD Review

Director John Hough has had a varied career, helming a number of similar, but very different films over the years. His Escape From Witch Mountain (1975) and The Watcher in the Woods (1980) were at opposite ends of the Disney scale in terms of family-friendly fare, and he also released a few notable supernatural films, including the 1973 Roddy McDowell classic The Legend of Hell House and The Incubus (1981). With Hell's Gate (originally titled Bad Karma), Hough has managed to combine elements from all of these films for this Jack The Ripper-themed thriller.

Maureen Hatcher (Patsy Kensit) is a patient in the maximum-security wing of Darden State Hospital, a home for the criminally insane. Hatcher, who is strapped to her hospital bed, is apparently supposed to be kind of like a sexy Hannibal Lecter, and we learn this during an expository speech by Dr. Trey Campbell (Patrick Muldoon), who happens to be training a replacement to cover for him while he vacations with his wife Carly (Amy Locane) and ten-year-old daughter. Hatcher believes herself to be the reincarnation of Jack The Ripper's assistant, and Campbell warns his replacement that she will desperately try to "get into your head" and is extremely dangerous. Campbell even gets to utter the entirely nonsensical line "she knows everything there is to know about the human body" about Hatcher, which seems like more than a bit of overstatement. Regardless, we can then only count down the minutes until she invariably escapes, and once free, Hatcher sets her sights on finding and killing Campbell and his family.

Hough tries to keep the script fresh with the Jack The Ripper/reincarnation undertones, but Hell's Gate is really nothing more than another example of a psycho tormenting an innocent family. For as accomplished a director as he is, this one doesn't display any particularly memorable visual moments, though Hough directs with a far more controlled hand than most B-movie films get. Except for some hubba-hubba nudity in the opening sequence, the rest of the film skips on skin and milks its R rating with a tongue biting, a heart removal, a syringe to the eye, and a couple of throat slashings. There aren't a lot of real thematic surprises in Hell's Gate; Hough even includes the old looking-for-the-killer-nervous-peek-behind-a-semi-transparent-shower-curtain bit for the expected false jump, as well as the drive-off-a-cliff-exploding-car standby.

Kensit, who looks either sexy and gaunt in this film (depending on the scene), has a weird, faraway look in her eyes, which lends a bit of credence to her apparent unbalanced mental state. Some of her scenes, though, are laughable, as when she menacingly thrusts a bouquet of flowers knifelike at Carly Campbell. I wasn't sure if that moment was supposed to be played for laughs, but it really cracked me up regardless. Muldoon does the good-looking doctor act as Campbell well enough, and he not only has to bravely avoid the sexual advances of Hatcher, but a lusty come-on from their babysitter as well.

The reincarnation plot angle doesn't always make a whole lot of sense in Hell's Gate, but if you strip that away you're left with a mediocre B-move about a deranged, occasionally sexy psychopath with a big knife. There are worse things, I imagine.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Artisan has issued Hell's Gate in a 1.33:1 fullframe transfer that is largely devoid of any major print flaws other than a surprising amount of white specks noticeable during the film's final twenty minutes. Other than that, colors are reproduced naturally, and fleshtones also hold their own, too. The downside are the black levels, which are wholly inconsistent; some scenes show generally poor shadow depth, while others look marginally better.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 offering is only a slight improvement over the 2.0 stereo track, with the only outstanding difference being an added aural and spatial depth to the Harry Manfredini (Friday The 13th) score. Both tracks offer generally clear, discernible dialogue, and neither offer any rear channel speaker presence at all. I had expected the 5.1 track to offer a little more in the way of imaging and the like, but it came across like only a moderately beefier 2.0 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Not much here, other than the traditional offerings. A quickie photo gallery, theatrical trailer, bios, filmographies, subtitles (English and Spanish) and 16 chapters make up the supplementals for Hell's Gate.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

This is a moderately interesting variation on the deranged-nutball-terrorizing-a-family genre, which adds a hint of reincarnation into the dramatic mix. Patsy Kensit's Maureen Hatcher isn't exactly Hannibal Lecter, but she does commit a decent number of grisly murders during Hell's Gate, though there was never really any doubt in my mind on how the fairly predictable story would play out. Worth a cheap rental for B-movie buffs, or better yet, catch it on cable where the disc's full-frame transfer will fit right in.

Rich Rosell 2002-08-14