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Hellborn
cast: Bruce Payne, Matt Stasi, Tracy Scoggins, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister Jr, and Julia Lee

director: Phil Jones

83 minutes (15) 2003 widescreen ratio 16:9
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
What opens as a weird horror about a satanic cult performing human sacrifices to a monstrous demon, quickly turns into a fatally bland and regrettably un-scary B-movie about how an idealistic but hopelessly na�ve young doctor, James Bishop (Matt Stasi) tries to save the insane patients in a state hospital from being killed off, one by one, by the asylum's totally evil chief Dr McCort (Bruce Payne, acting on autopilot).

Thankfully, this is one of those cheap occult 'shockers' that falls into the category of 'so bad; it's good'. Stasi looks the part of a psych ward doc just like any of those handsome young actors on daytime hospital soap operas look like real medics. In other words he doesn't convince us for a second. He's just another young actor in a white coat. As the discreetly sinister McCort, Payne exudes campy menace with little effort, and yet all that's really terrifying about him is the ease with which he dominates every scene he's in. There are no surprises here, folks. Even the twist ending is utterly predictable when it obviously wants to be mischievously clever.

We may guess from the very start that Bishop's pretty wife (Julia Lee) will pay an unexpected visit to the hospital, out of concern for her overworked husband, and that she will fall foul of the wicked Dr McCort. It's as inevitable as water running downhill. Despite some vivid gore make-up effects and a passable though largely immobile creature (the work of Richard Redlefsen, who designed the bug beastie for superior monster movie Jeepers Creepers), Hellborn has little to commend it to horror fans.

The supporting cast are frequently allowed to overact, and this results in a lack of tension with only bog-standard pantomime style suspense. Minor league visual flourishes (DoP Mark Melville does a good job of making interiors seem eerie and vaguely unsettling, even in bright daylight scenes), and black comedy sequences (of course, we get that worn-out joke with an inmate impersonating a doctor) are among the main points of interest here. Apart from this being essential viewing for diehard followers of Mr Payne, perhaps the best thing about Hellborn is the criminally underused Tracy Scoggins who plays one of the nurses. Here she manages to avoid the generic cliché of being the 'sex symbol' in a starched white uniform and, in her terribly underwritten character's key dramatic moment, she conveys greater threat to the weak-willed hero with a stern expression than anything else in the film, including McCort's warningly philosophical chats, and the lumbering monster combined.

There are no DVD extras unless you want to count the film's lacklustre trailer.
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