Having witnessed her mother's brutal death, Susan (Judy Landers, Dr. Alien) gets amnesia from a fall while being pursued by the killer, Silk (Ray Sharkey, The Idolmaker). Awakening in Ashland Sanitarium, she is once again terrorized by Silk, disguised as an orderly. To pry an incriminating secret from Susan's brain, Silk forms an uneasy alliance with Dr. Fletcher (Mary Woronov, Rock 'n' Roll High School), a psychotic scientist who has been testing a new lobotomy technique, using helpless inmates as her guinea pigs. These vicious experiments are carried out in the "Hellhole," a torture den awaiting Susan as its next victim.
In the film, HELLHOLE, Susan Walker witnesses her mother's murder at the hands of an intruder named "Silk". It was on the eve of the day that Susan's mother was to turn in incriminating evidence against the doctor whom hired Silk, to insure that the documents didn't reach their destination. The paperwork, dealing with finances, would surely put the doctor away. Unfortunately, things don't go has planned, as there was a witness in Judy. The whole ordeal ends drastically when Silk chases Susan to a construction site. It is here that Susan has a fall, which results in amnesia. She ends up in the hospital, and can't remember a thing. It's from there, that the doctor that had ordered Susan's mother killed, has Susan purposely placed in the Ashland Sanitarium for Women. He also sends his henchmen, Silk there, to pose as an Orderly named "Taylor", and to hopefully get the whereabouts of the paperwork out of Susan. But for Susan, who can't seem to remember much of that night, or how she ended up at Ashland, Silk won't be her only problem. That's because Ashland's head Doctor, Dr. Evelyn Fletcher and her partner, Dr. Dane, are conducting vile chemical lobotomy experiments in an adjacent abandoned storage building. The building, dubbed "Hellhole", is a place where patients have a fear of going. It is where Fletcher deals out punishment for those who misbehave, or defy her. When it's Susan who ends up in Hellhole, with her life as she knows it, in jeopardy. it's up to a loyal orderly named Ron Stevens to help Susan, not only escape the institution, but both Fletcher, and Silk as well.
HELLHOLE is film that I have heard about for years, but had not seen, until now. The feel of this film is that of a "Women in Prison" film, although this film, instead takes place in a women's sanitarium, rather than a prison. With that said, the results are about the same, in that, everything isn't on the straight and narrow at the sanitarium in question. In fact, there is something sinister happening in the building next door. "Hellhole", as the building has been dubbed by faculty, and patients alike, is where all of the "bad" patients go, in order to be dealt with. So yes, not only does our main character have these people after her that is trying to pry information from her clouded mind, she also finds herself tangled in a wicked experiment web, orchestrated by head Doctor in charge, Evelyn Fletcher.
As a whole, HELLHOLE is pretty basic in setup, and what it includes. We have a main character, who finds herself helpless, and trapped in a dangerous place, surrounded by a dangerous group of people. But then there is of course the do gooder, the white Knight, who hopes to save the day. Here, it's the character of "Ron Stevens, as played by Richard Cox, who stumbles upon Fletcher's unlawful experiments, and is subsequently determined to right the wrong When Susan finds herself targeted by Fletcher, as well as Silk, Stevens desperately attempts to get her out of there before she too is rendered mindless via Fletcher's chemical concoction, or is dead otherwise.
The easy way to summarize HELLHOLE would be to say that it is high on camp. It's very silly, but for a lover of B-Movies, it's fun. It's similar to the Linda Blair starrers, SAVAGE STREETS and CHAINED HEAT. While HELLHOLE may not quite be as great as those films, it's still enjoyable, and is a worthy piece of any Women in Prison/B-Movie collection.
As we have such a story, the acting is what you would expect. It isn't exactly award winning, yet is serviceable for the type of film which it appears. Judy Landers is ok, but not too prominent as our would be damsel in distress, "Susan Walker". I really like Judy(as well as her sister, Audrey, who appeared on TV's "Dallas".), who any fan of '80s camp cinema will surely recognize. She's fine here, however, the film doesn't actually make her heroic on any level as a "final girl" should be. More heroic, is the character of Ron Stevens(Richard Cox), but he is the typical knight in shining armor type. He's almost the mandatory good guy of sorts. Notable performances on the other side are from Mary Woronov as the evil "Dr. Evelyn Fletcher", Marjoe Gortner as her assistant, with reservations, "Dr. Dane", and Robert Z'Dar as Fletcher's muscle-man security guard, "Billy". Ray Sharkey also appears as "Silk", the film's most pivotal bad guy. "Silk" is the one who murdered Susan's mother, and he's also the one who plans to trail Susan's every move until he gets the information that he needs. Sharkey really is great, as he, like Woronov chews up the B-Movie scerey, in the most eccentric way.
Overall, I enjoyed this film for what it is, by not expecting anymore than that from it. While it may not be as great as a number of its counterparts, it's obvious as to why the film has a bit of a cult following. It has an exaggerated plot, some gratuitous nudity, as well as a few recognizable faces from the time.
SCREAM! FACTORY presents HELLHOLE for the first time on Blu-Ray as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. At the beginning of the film we are greeted by a message that tells us that the original from negative for HELLHOLE has been lost. For the majority of this release, they utilized the film's inter-positive for the transfer, but they state that the inter-positive was unfortunately missing scenes. To fix this, they pulled the missing footage from a found film print. So, because of this, the footage isn't always consistent in quality, but as they mention, they have their best to match the footage as a whole. With this said, I have to say that it looks good. I mean, if we hadn't been told beforehand, we might not have noticed. Well, most of us, anyway. The overall look, and sound of the film, is pretty good here. People should be pleased with it. Also pleasing is the brief interview included with co-star, Mary Woronov(4m 54s). Woronov is just wonderful in her carefree recollection of her career. She recalls HELLHOLE as a film that in her opinion wasn't very good, but feels that it is what it is, and if people enjoy it, then so be it. She makes it clear that she can't believe that the film has the following that it has, but says that the fans have good taste.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
After knowing about HELLHOLE for some time, I finally got to see it here. And truthfully, it wasn't that bad. Not great, but good. I do believe that it helps that a viewer already have a liking for B-movies prior to going in. If you know what you are getting into beforehand, all the better the viewing experience it will be. I found it to be enjoyable. Give it a shot, if you haven't seen it. And if you are already a fan of the film, this SCREAM! FACTORY disc serves up the film as crisp as possible.
Special Features include
- NEW Interview With Actress Mary Woronov
- Original Theatrical Trailer