Tony Todd is an under-appreciated actor. Give him the right material and he has led a horror franchise, or provided a memorable supporting role or cameo in numerous films. Lance Henriksen is capable of excellent work too, his turn as Frank Black in the series Millennium still one of the best small-screen essays in wounded, haunted and complex heroism. But, as anyone who has read Bruce Campbell’s first autobiography knows, the life of a blue-collar actor isn’t always glamorous and sometimes you’ve just got to do a job to pay the bills. Despite this, it’s still a shame to find both filling out the cast of West of Hell, a sadly underwhelming attempt (somewhat) at a modern kind of linked anthology approach, the type Amicus did so well.
Like those films, West of Hell brings a seemingly disparate group of people together, here on a late-night train journey. Todd’s avenging ex-slave is hunting his next justice killing and at first, it seems a duel between him and the bounty hunter protecting his prey will be the focus. Soon enough, it becomes clear the train is on a literally hellish trip into darkness and everyone on board has a dark secret they must confront to save their souls. For a film that runs to 80 minutes it does this in a very drawn-out way. Made for nowt and unable to hide budget limitations, the film tries to keep your attention with basic philosophising on good and evil and occasional nudity and gore, but it’s all for nought because there’s little substance here.
West of Hell is not especially well-written, or particularly well-shot and that only highlights some iffy performances and the paucity of characters to care about. Even fans of Todd or Henriksen will struggle with this one, as the material gives them little to do. Still, both make so many films that hopefully their next ones will have a better outcome. We never enjoy taking a film down when people bothered to make it in the first place. This isn’t an awful film, or offensive in any way. It simply exists whether you like it or not, and is difficult to recommend.
WEST OF HELL / CERT: 15/ DIRECTOR: GABI CHENNISI DUNCOMBE, BUBBA FISH, MICHAEL STEVES / STARRING: TONY TODD, MICHAEL EKLUND, LANCE HENRIKSEN, JENNIFER LAPORTE / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 21ST