It’s been three days since I watched Hellroller, and since then I’ve been staring at my computer screen, unable to write about it. I simply don’t have the words to describe why I enjoyed it so much. No matter how many positive things I try to write, it always reads like I’m trashing it. But I really did enjoy it.
USA, 1992, Gary J. Levinson
Eugene (Ron Litman) has had a hard life. Abandoned as a child, suffering from a twitch, and paralysed from the waist down. He’s pissed and close to breaking point. It’s easy to sympathise with him, as the realities of his disabled life are shown in the opening scenes of the movie. Being pushed along busy LA streets in his wheelchair, he has to constantly tell bystanders that he’s handicapped to clear the way. The bystanders are clearly unaware they’re being filmed.
Eugene knows something isn’t right with his life. Something important is missing. He suspects that his mother (played, unbelievably, by Mary Woronov, performing under the name Penny Arcade) is keeping something from him.
She confirms that she is in fact his aunt and that his mother was raped and murdered when he was a baby. The scene is tastefully recreated with a sexy saxophone score. To make matters weirder, the offenders are played by conjoined twins (or just two actors wearing the same t-shirt).
When Eugene’s aunt is also murdered by two hobos for no reason, he loses his shit. He seeks help from local crime-boss, The King of the Bums (David Sterry), a deranged maniac who constantly insults Eugene, refusing to help him. Eugene decides to take matters into his own hands, and with the aid of mentally incapacitated bum, Donald (played for laughs by director, G. J. Levinson). A bizarre, psychedelic and straight up bonkers killing spree begins.
I say bonkers because everything from this point makes no sense. The story just jumps from one strange set piece to another, usually ending with somebody being killed. The editing has zero continuity. There are two randomly extended scenes of girls stripping (Michelle Bauer and Hyapatia Lee).
There’s an unrelated scene near the beginning of the movie where a preacher is in the middle of the city, being heckled by passers-by which I’m convinced they just added because it was some funny footage that needed a home. Another unrelated scene has a guy on a bad acid trip, featuring some of the most ridiculous visual effects I’ve ever seen in a movie.
There’s another scene of a hooker being cooked to death with a clothes-iron. All of this is held together with a cheap synth and drum machine-led soundtrack. Brad Feidel’s Terminator soundtrack keeps popping up too in places, which is awesome.
There is a suggestion that all of this is a bad dream Eugene is having. But it’s poorly executed, and frankly, I didn’t really care about plot by this point because my mind was far too warped. Things briefly go back to normal in a moving scene where Eugene falls in love with a hooker. But even this quickly degenerates back into bizarre psychedelic territory.
It’s clear from this point on that Eugene has lost all control and can’t find salvation. He seeks the aid of a mad scientist (played by The King of the Bum’s David Sterry in a dual role) to create a formula for turning all of LA into bums. Eugene wants all of the “Normals” to know how it feels to live like the “Freaks”. There’s some deep social commentary going on here. Needless to say, LA’s degeneration into a city of cockney-accented bums is hilarious.
All of this sets the scene for a final, ridiculous confrontation with The King of the Bums, culminating in a blur of eye gougings, beheadings and bad language. After an hour of some of the worst editing I’ve ever seen, it’s no surprise to find that the movie ends as suddenly as you’d expect, leaving me lost for words. I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about Hellroller. All I knew was that for some reason I couldn’t wait to watch it again.
Perhaps it was the acting that kept me interested. While it’s by no means good (some of the performances are downright dreadful) most of the actors are giving it 100%, especially Ron Litman who plays Eugene. His face is impressively locked in an eternal grimace and his performance is filled with pathos and vulnerability, as the following clip will highlight.
I guess if I had to sum it up, I’d put it something like this: shot on video and semi-improvised, Hellroller is a 100 minute long bad-taste entertainment machine for people with an unabashed hatred for mankind. And I loved it.
Hellroller was available on DVD-R from VHShitfest for a measly 10 bucks, but they’re sold out. Nooooooo!