STUDIO: Vivendi Entertainment

MSRP: $19.93

RATED: Not Rated

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes


•  Not a single thing

The Pitch

Remember how awesome it was when Brian Bosworth infiltrated that group of biker gangs?  Let’s do that but have them be undead.  And instead of Bosworth, we’ll get Miguel Ferrer.  And instead of being infiltrated, we’ll have them attack a group of twenty-somethings in an RV.  So, yeah, I guess it’s not like Stone Cold at all.

The Humans

Miguel effin Ferrer.  Top billing.  What else do you need to know?

The Nutshell

Miguel Ferrer is an immortal dark priest looking to arrange the birth of the Antichrist.  A group of idealist Generation Y-ers happen upon one of their friendly, naked-women-eating rituals one night in the backwoods of Texas.  As you can imagine, it doesn’t end up all that well for our young, attractive campers.

Something odd and/or quirky must be happening just off camera toward stage left that may or may not endear us to these characters and make us hope they don’t die.

The Lowdown

When Miguel Ferrer gets top billing in a movie, you know you’re in for a treat.  For a man who has never had his name above the movie title in any movie in recent (or ever?) memory, you have to wonder: why now?  And: why Hard Ride to Hell?

I’ll tell you why: his role as Jefe allows Ferrer to kill two acting birds with one stone.  Since he has always wanted to play both an obstetrician and a dark magic priest, taking this part was a no-brainer because he got to accomplish both feats as one character: the opening scene features Jefe’s grizzly attempts at an impromptu childbirth that would make Caesar himself proud — and the rest of us either queasy or jazzed for what wonderful gory gifts that would be in store for the rest of the movie.

Sadly, the film doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the opening several minutes.  And while it predictably lacks in acting quality and plot, the real bummer is that for being a movie about an immortal sect of dark magic-practicing Hell’s Angels hellbent on finding the one woman strong enough to handle Jefe’s seed and give birth to the Antichrist, there really isn’t much in the way of gruesome, stomach-churning, violent deaths.  And since this DVD proudly touts the “Unrated & Uncut” label, I expected much more in this department.

Not one to rest even in death, Elvis adapted his stage routine to fit in better with the rest of the damned.

The film is fairly straightforward: a group of friends travel via RV through Texas on their way to a Habitat for Humanity project, despite the main couple being paralyzed by grief over having just miscarried what would’ve been their first child. (Gee, I wonder if maybe she ends up being the one destined to carry on the Jefe’s dark bloodline? Hmmm…) They stop at a campground for the night, meet some creepy guy named Bob who is a traveling knife salesman, and then, as evidenced by the blurb on the back of the box, make the biggest mistakes of their lives when they accidentally run into the aforementioned Babylonian-god-worshiping bikers.  

Since the movie only starts out with five friends in the RV, there isn’t much death to go around without killing off the entire crew in the first 30 minutes and rendering the whole idea of making a feature-length picture pretty much moot.  In order for this to work, director Penelope Buttenhuis needs to create tension and suspense.  She doesn’t.  Not that these types of movies are expected to have serious thrills so much as thrilling kills, so I don’t need that necessarily — but, when you’re lacking the one, you definitely want the other otherwise you can get bored rather quickly.  And such is the case for Hard Ride to Hell.

“Get in mah belly!!!”

The bad guys are immortal, so you know off the bat that they’re going to be difficult to make not living.  But, somehow, so are the good guys and gals.  They — along with the badass Bob the Blade Salesman, who also happens to be a former military hotshot — manage to survive the onslaught for most of the film.  Except for the token black guy — while he doesn’t die first, he’s the one who takes the most punishment for the longest time before suffering an untimely end — and the brother (apparently being single is the new recently devirginized) who becomes unalive right off the bat, the rest of the group makes it to the final showdown in the church where everybody dies or dies and is then reborn.

Actually, I forgot a
third, preferable direction in which this movie easily could’ve gone: comedy.  With the absurd performance of Ferrer (more on that in a moment) along with the bumbling, overweight biker dudes as
bad guys, the missed opportunity for Sam Raimi-style jokes and sight
gags was ripe and would’ve made for an overall more entertaining
experience.  Granted not many can balance the horror and the humor like
Raimi did expertly in Drag Me to Hell — a movie that from which this film blatantly borrowed for its title and its DVD cover art — but had Buttenhuis edged it
just a bit more toward the funny, this could’ve been a gem in a sea of cheaply made, mediocre horror flicks.

When in doubt, just add in a dash of Sunshine bad guy and booya: instant ending!

And then of course, there’s Miguel Ferrer.  He’s credited on the back cover as playing the part of “Black Sombrero,” but he’s only called “Jefe” in the movie.  Either way, I’m not sure anyone could pull off being less scary no matter what his name as an all-powerful, zombie-esque, Satanic priest than Bob Morton himself.  His catchphrase is the much more terrifying on paper than on screen question: “Are you willing to give yourself to the fire?”  (Okay, it’s not really terrifying on paper either.)  It doesn’t help that he enunciates this more as an indifferent statement whose answer he couldn’t care less about either way than a Sophie’s Choice-type question.  And when push comes to shove, there’s not even much fire to be given to — for those unfortunate souls in the beginning of the film who say “no,” they’re bitten into by the undead bikers not given to the fire against their will; for the one woman who says “yes,” she gets nailed by Miguel Ferrer in one of the least arousing alive/undead coitus scenes captured on celluloid (or HD tape).  I mean, when you get top billing and you’re starring as an occult-loving, undead biker priest, why in the world would you restrain your performance?  This whole thing screams for Mel Gibson-yelling-at-his-ex-girlfriend-style, wild-eyed, over-the-top scenery chewing, but Ferrer opts to go the quiet-scary route for some unfathomable reason.  And again, with some slight tweaks in direction by Buttenuis, Ferrer could’ve rode this very performance into something hysterically memorable. 

Oh, what might have been.  Either way, if all you’re looking for is to kill an hour and a half of your life, see some random topless women who get eaten by biker dudes, and watch Miguel Ferrer ask over and over and over again in total deadpan “Are you willing to give yourself to the fire?” then look no further.  Hard Ride to Hell is just for you.

Neither Slimer nor immortal former 80s B-list actors are any match for the positron collider. 

The Package

Nothing to write home about.  No special features except for some trailers that play before the menu starts, one of which looks amazing — Phantom Racer — starring Greg Evigan and Nicole Eggert that looks like Christine meets Days of Thunder, which, I mean, c’mon: how could you not love that? 

3.5 out of 10