Judge Jason Panella never made it to the Hellgate. He got stuck in traffic on the Hellturnpike.
Fear lies in the darkness.
Hellgate tries to do a bunch of things at once, but only (unintentionally) succeeds at one thing: being unremarkable. It's too scare-focused to be an effective drama and too languid to function as horror or thriller material. The nice Thai locations and inoffensive nature keep it from being a truly bad picture, but it's certainly not good.
While visiting family in Bangkok, Jeff (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride) is involved in an automobile accident that kills his wife and son and leaves him in a coma. He wakes and soon realizes that he can see the ghosts of people who died in tragically. With the help of his nurse, Choi (Ploy Jindachote, The Impossible), and spiritual guru/surfboard stacker, Warren (William Hurt, Dark City), Jeff tries to stop the advance of the shadow realm, or something.
This all unfolds over an hour and a half of mumbling, lazy jump-scares, and some nice-looking establishing shots of Thailand's cities and countryside. Elwes comes off the worst here; he spends a good portion of his screen time acting like a man who just realized his car keys are missing. Everything about Elwes's performance is muted, which helps sap the life out of the first half of the movie. Once Hurt's character shows up, things change slightly for the better. The script is still a collection of banalities—Hurt in particular seems to be taking the path of least resistance to get to his paycheck—but at least the pace picks up.
MPI's release of Hellgate features a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that looks quite nice. Some of cinematographer's Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) lighting choices don't always jive with the screenplay, but everything at least stands out visually. The Dolby Digital surround track does the trick—not too thin, not overwhelming. The extras are scant: just a trailer for the feature film.
Hellgate tries to look at the effect of survivor's guilt in a roundabout way, and it actually works well as far as metaphors go (the movie's original title of Shadows is more apt). But in trying to bridge the gap between genres, writer/director John Penney (Zyzzyx Road) never connects to either side. The concept is solid, and Penney deserves credit for approaching a movie like this introspectively, but it comes off as boring and not really that scary. Worst of all, Hellgate is forgettable.
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