A slew of young Canadian actors (all of whom I recognize for the wrong reasons) star in a cheap throwback to the seventies satanic horror exploitation films that has the potential to be a very excellent horror flick but is instead cheap C grade hokum worthy of the dregs of the SyFy Channel here in America. In fact I can predict its initial run on DVD to end with an edited commercial interrupted premiere on said cable channel. “Hard Ride to Hell” is a movie with a great idea but an all too convoluted plot that begins with hapless young travelers on a road to nowhere who find themselves in a world of over-complicated and rather dull trouble involving Satan, bikers, satanic bikers, and a sprig of Robert Rodriguez just to tap the familiarity of horror fans.
And while the script does try to channel the likes of the Southwest exploitation we all know and love, the proceedings are otherwise hampered by very sub-par performances with dialogue that includes nuggets like “Sweet Jiminy, will you two get a room already?!” It’s a cheesy one-liner that’s contradicted by an abortion scene in the film’s preamble. So all of the horror clichés are aboard: we have drunken inept supporting characters, a virginal final girl, a melodramatic satanic cult, the broken down trailer that becomes a plot device for our heroes to rely on to break down on the right times and work at the dramatic peaks, and of course their cell phones do not work because they’re apparently on Mars where phone signals are not present.
The characters are here only to serve plot progression and have convenient origins that could become of good use later on. So we’re forced to sit through our two main characters talk endlessly about losing their child and considering adoption because we later learn the satanic cult hopes to revive their satanic lord through a woman who can nurture and birth a baby from her womb. This is where our final girl Tessa comes in, the woman who holds the key to the long drawn out plot. I wish this were all interesting but what occurs on screen simply isn’t. I didn’t know exactly why they wanted their lord reborn and for what purposes since they were just a biker gang, I didn’t know why they were megalomaniacal super villains twirling their mustaches (especially Miguel Ferrer who is just as hammy as ever!) one second and mere thugs rambling about apple pie and looting a trailer the next.
With a great director and a competent cast “Hard Ride to Hell” could have been a decent little grindhouse throwback but as it stands it takes its ridiculous premise much too seriously, and its entire supporting cast can’t sell us on this insanity, particularly Katharine Isabelle who is basically on auto-drive here playing the typical trashy slutty friend who inexplicably becomes the key to their survival and for the remainder of the film just sits back screaming and reacting to every event. Brent Strait’s character is another individual with promise to be a great hero who instead comes off as a mentally disabled man child quite often displaying a wide eyed awe at everything in front of him that completely undermines his alleged experience in the military that becomes an instrument later in fighting this evil.
Stait is definitely not the worst thing in here, but for a character with such importance he should have been much more interesting and complex. Instead here he’s just another convenient plot device. When the film really is in motion it’s just filled with bland fight scenes and a plot that screeches to a halt on more than one occasion and all I saw for ninety minutes was a cheap movie with promise of being something much better that will never be. A sign of too many cooks in the kitchen, not even three screenwriters can turn “Hard Ride to Hell” in to a remotely entertaining satanic biker flick, which is a shame because all of the elements are there for a cult classic (especially with Ferrer and Isabelle in tow), but it never quite comes together to form a coherent entry at all. It’s just yet another Direct to DVD genre mess.