Hellblock 13 (2000)
By: Devon B. on December 29, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Stomp Visual (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 90 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Paul Talbot
Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Debbie Rochon, Amy R. Swaim
Screenplay: Jeff Miller, Michael R. Smith, Paul Talbot
Music: Andrew Scott Foust, Eric Martin, Kirk Luther
Tagline: Once Inside You'll Pray For the Chair!
Country: USA
Rumour has it that this movie's original title was Hellblock 666 but the digits were changed because it was being shot in a heavily Christian area. When producers couldn't get any locations with the original title, the film became Hellblock 13 and they were able to get the use of the prison seen in the film. Odd that the number, not the word "hell" would be an issue. Anyway, you might not think Hellblock 13 is a Troma movie, as it lacks the standard intro from Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma and creator of the Toxic Avenger, but the little Toxie face on the sleeve should reassure you that it is.

Hellblock 13 is an anthology, and the wrap-around stars Gunnar Hansen and Debbie Rochon. Hansen is the executioner (and for nearly the whole movie, seemingly the ONLY staff member) at a prison where serial killer Rochon is awaiting her death sentence. Hansen stops by Rochon's cell to lord it over her, but instead she begins regaling him with stories, stories she wants to live on after her nefarious crimes have been forgotten.

The first story is about a woman who claims her children have been kidnapped. The law is sceptical, suspecting she may have done away with them. The mother then begins having weird, unexplainable things happen to her, and it begins to seem that perhaps this Mommy was not so dearest. The acting isn't always so hot in this section, and the story's a bit banal.

However, things pick up in story two. A wife beater has pushed his wife to her limits, so she seeks vengeance in an unusual fashion with the help of her scary neighbour. This bit is far more interesting, and the overall silliness kept it engaging for me. The acting is still bad, but it now suits the tongue in cheek material.

The third story isn't as good as the second, but is thankfully better than the first. In this tale, a biker gang is on a drug run to Mexico, but they stop to pay tribute to their own little patron saint. The new guy is hesitant to do this, wanting to get the run over with. The new guy isn't all he seems, but the mystery of his true intentions isn't particularly mysterious. The acting's a bit better in this one, and there're still a few good gags.

Hellblock 13 is certainly hit and miss. Hansen is better here than in, say, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, but I'm thinking it's still "Leatherface" and not "The Executioner in Hellblock 13" that should go on his tombstone. The FX in Hellblock 13 are mostly tacky bladder work, but there are a few okay FX moments. A dead dog and the lamest old age makeup since Violent Shit II: Mother Hold My Hand are the worst of the FX, unless you count some terrible silicone enhancement displayed in a nude scene.
Video
Hellblock 13 is presented at 1.33:1. The film has grain, the occasional speck, and a few glitches, and the print seems a little murky. Overall, it's an okay, standard Troma quality transfer, and most of the faults are probably with the film itself, not the transfer.
Audio
The audio is a two-channel English track. There is some light distortion in a few of the early scenes, but in the third story there is more distortion. Dialogue is decipherable throughout, and the mix levels are fine aside from one bit in the final story. Again, the faults probably lay with the source material.
Extra Features
The trailers are still nixed for the Oz release, but for some reason a comprehensive upcoming Troma DVDs trailer is okay. There's also an ad for the now defunct Tromaville site. If this is the only Troma DVD you will ever own, you're in luck, as it does have the Radiation March on it. If you own any other Troma DVD, this is something you already have. Even if the trailers had been left on, this DVD is a bit light on extras for a Troma release.
The Verdict
Hellblock 13 is an ambitious, low budget movie, but the DVD is not up to Troma standards. Even the usual, mostly irrelevant, Troma extras are not included. A lot of those are repetitive for Troma fans, but this DVD doesn't even have the obligatory intro, making it seem like a quickie release.
Movie Score
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