cast: James Fisher, Rebecca Herod, James Kavaz, Eleanor James, and Natalie Milner
writer and director: Pat Higgins
81 minutes (15) 207
widescreen ratio 16:9
Fremantle DVD Region 2 retail
review by Ian Sales
The words ‘low-budget horror’ have been known to strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest of film watchers. Much more so than the most horrifying beast ever shown on celluloid. Pat Higgins is a director of low-budget horror films, and Hellbride is his third feature. It is, by all accounts, much better than his earlier two films.
Lee Parker (James Fisher) is a professional stand-up comedian and not an especially good one, judging by the glimpses we get of his routine. He purchases an engagement ring because he wishes to propose to Nicola Meadows (Rebecca Herod). What he doesn’t know – but the viewers do, thanks to an explanatory voiceover following the opening credits – is that the ring is cursed. During the preceding decades all those brides-to-be who had worn it had died in bloodbaths before the altar.
The situation is not helped by the fact that Nicola’s father, dodgy businessman Lesley Meadows (James Kavaz), has had a run-in with a local gangster and has inadvertently shot and killed the man’s son. Their vendetta also spills over into the upcoming nuptials. A further side-plot has the best friends of the impending married couple, Carly (Natalie Milner) and Ricky (Oli Wilkinson), who were themselves once a pair, sniping at each other every time they meet. There’s also a monster which wanders in and out of the film, killing people for some reason.
Worried by a series of strange dreams, and the disappearance of Carly’s current beau, Nicola and Carly visit Sinclair (Cy Henty), an occultist. He explains the history of the ring and its possible effect on her married bliss. He then removes from the ring the ghost who had cursed it, Josephine (Eleanor James), and imprisons her in a mirror. He cautions Nicola not to allow blood to touch the ring or Josephine will be released. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen. Gangster seeking revenge; evil spirit who will be set free to cause mayhem if blood touches the cursed jewellery; a wedding ceremony…
Fisher and Herod play their parts well, certainly better than you would expect from a self-produced low-budget horror film. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast. And the dialogue throughout is uniformly terrible. Carly talks like a character from a book, the witticisms are often juvenile and unfunny, and the bickering frequently descends into playground taunts. There’s no disguising what Hellbride is. It tries to make a virtue of its budget but that, I suspect, simply can’t be done. What’s more common is when filmmakers make an excuse of their budget. To its credit, Hellbride at least doesn’t fall into this trap. It aspires to more than it can afford, and if it fails it’s only because, well, it can’t afford to do it properly. It will entertain; it will entertain more after several beers. And, it has to be admitted, the climax is amusing and well-handled.
Hellbride is a low-budget horror film, which should tell you all you need to know. The word may not be the thing itself, but that phrase both explains and describes an entire film genre in a way the words ‘science fiction’ or ‘thriller’ simply can’t. Enough said.
The DVD also includes a making-of, with interviews with Higgins and the cast, and footage shot during filming on set. There’s also a blooper reel of a single scene, and some deleted scenes.