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MOVIE REVIEW

'Hellbent' has killer abs, but that's it

''Hellbent" is billed as the ''first ever gay slasher movie," and that, dear reader, is where the innovation stops. A genre cheapie from its digital-video camerawork to its Casiotone soundtrack to its bland, buff cast, the movie is a cultural watershed in a dry gulch.

For the record, then: It's Halloween in West Hollywood, and a devil-masked psycho with ripped abs is beheading the local party boys as they make out in cars. A quartet of friends taunt the killer as they cut through the park on their way to the big street bash, then spend the rest of the film fleeing his scythe.

In order of ascending obnoxiousness, they include the hero, Eddie (Dylan Fergus), a shy hunk who's the closest thing to a Jamie Lee Curtis-style virgin the filmmakers could find; Tobey (Matt Phillips), a likable male model in drag; Joey (Hank Harris), a nerd with a crush on a queen-bee jock; and Chazz (Andrew Levitas), a bad boy so morally compromised that he's willing to sleep with women. The group is later joined by Jake (Bryan Kirkwood), a tough biker type -- he looks more like a waiter who hasn't shaved for a few days -- with whom Eddie is besotted.

Writer-director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts's one interesting idea is to play the old slasher-movie cliches straight with an all-male cast. So his movie offers pro forma soft-core sex scenes that get interrupted by hackery (in both senses of the word), and the unstoppable killer carries a whiff of rough trade. Is he an AIDS metaphor? Is the entire thing a parody? If only ''Hellbent" were that ambitious.

Other than Phillips and Levitas, both of whom provide some spark, the actors behave as if they're at a photo shoot. The DV camerawork has the feel of an after-hours project in which the lighting equipment has been ''borrowed" from the key grip's day job. The gore effects are mail-order. We will not speak of the dialogue. Even basic believability isn't on the menu: A nightclub full of Ecstasy-addled revelers might notice a man getting disemboweled on a crowded dance floor.

So it's a queer breakthrough; so what? Does the gay rights movement really need a bad dice-and-slice flick to further the cause? ''Hellbent" has exactly as much social relevance as a lesbian carwash, and considerably less purpose.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com.

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