Director – Douglas Schulze (Dark Fields, Dark Heaven)
Starring – John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm St., From Dusk Till Dawn), David Emge (Dawn of the Dead, Basket Case 2), and Amy Raasch (Voodoo, Momma’s Boy)
Release Date – 1992
Rating – 2.5/5
Blu Release – 4/5
Tagline – “He’ll show you the way to hell and meet you there”
I’m diving deep into movies that I really need to review. I’ve been watching three or four movies every evening for a week or so and I have to admit that I’m loving it. I’ve been working through a stack of Vinegar Syndrome releases and just finished up a fantastic hardcore sexploitation flick and needed some horror to set myself straight.
This was the perfect time to toss in the 1992 John Saxon film Hellmaster. This film was unique for also starring Dawn of the Dead’s David Emge which did not go on to do that many films after DotD. Thank you Vin Syn for sending this one my way.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a group of college students that stumble upon a dark secret hiding within their university. Over 20 years ago a college professor started a cult and was using a special serum to control them. Another professor found out about it and burned that portion of the college to the ground. The evil professor never died in the fire and continued his experiments in silence until a reporter on a quest for revenge poke the bear forcing the professor to reveal himself and his mindless minions under his control.**Spoiler Alert**
When I put my stack together of Vinegar Syndrome movies I needed to review I was the most excited for this film. I remember seeing the VHS pop up in a few of the horror groups over the years and hated the artwork. That made me want to watch the movie as strange as that sounds. Sadly, the film was the same quality as the artwork and did not deliver.
The acting in this one is a mixed bag. We get solid performances from Saxon and Emge. Both give us highly entertaining characters but their supporting cast and the mindless minions were rough to watch at times. The scenes are not consistent with the cast and a lot of the movie suffers from that.
The story for this one has so much fucking potential but does borrow heavily from the horror film The Dead Pit with an evil doctor experimenting on patients in an attempt to become immortal while Hellmaster follows a college professor experimenting on college students and becomes immortal. Also, in both films we see the doctor/professor turning his “patients” into mindless drones that do his bidding. With that being said, Hellmaster struggles with it’s pacing. The movie is extremely slow and the few actions scenes we do get are very underwhelming. They lack suspense but I do give them credit for the atmosphere in the film.
Finally, those of you wanting blood will find it here. The film is not gory but we do get plenty of blood and some nice practical effects. I was not let down when it came to the deaths. Overall, Hellmaster is a film that struggles to impress but still deserves at least one watch. Horror fans will want to pick this up on blu from Vinegar Syndrome for their collections.
Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original negative
Original Theatrical Version (as “THEM”)
Director’s recut version (as “HELLMASTER”) (SD)
Director commentary for both versions
“Creating Reality” – an interview with cinematographer Michael Goi
Conceptual artwork gallery
Behind-the-scenes stills gallery
Archival locations featurette
Reversible cover artwork
English SDH subtitles