Like they say, Autumn is here and it’s the season of fear, okay, maybe no one says that but it’s SCREAMIN’ SZN (season). This is the time of year where studios unleash their Horror flicks on a weekly basis until Oscar season begins. Directed by Gregory Plotkin, the editor that has edited such films as Game Night, Happy Death Day, and Get Out, brings us a new entry into the slasher film genre with Hell Fest.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
First time I saw that trailer I thought this was going to be a Blumhouse production like the latter two films above, but this time we have Valhalla Entertainment (producers of The Walking Dead) going with a low budget horror to maximize their returns at the box office. More on this later.
Hell Fest is a throwback to a time when slasher films were simple, one night a group of friends are at an amusement park and there’s a killer on the loose, so who is going to survive and who will perish? An amusement park full of rides and haunted houses should add for some creativity and fun on how the characters meet their demise in innovative ways. What makes a good slasher film is the antagonist whether it’s Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger, Leatherface, or Ghostface they all made you leave the theater thinking they were badass and they all had a look that made them standout. The masked killers in The Strangers weren’t as cartoony as the aforementioned characters which is fine… slashers do not have to be cartoony to be good.
The antagonist in Hell Fest is simply named The Other and I can only assume he got his name because he doesn’t standout like all the other ones…even his mask is generic. The mask choice may have been on purpose because when he returns home at the end of the film he has a cabinet of multiple mask (that look more creative!) and a photo of his victim from a previous haunt a year ago that begins the film. The “new mask, new me method” is a good way to set up any potential sequels. The Other even has a slow walk and no talk approach to his killings, and it’s complimented with his own theme like a clone of Jason and Michael Myers. No machete for this stocky character, instead the weapon used by this cold-blooded killer was an icepick. The trailer above shows the deadly weapon in use. The best death in the movie is when The Other plays a game of Strongman and lifts up a heavy mallet and crushes the skull of one the characters the ultimate test of strength. The fun part about that death is that the victim is shown earlier not able to win any of the fair games at the park.
There’s a few good performances sprinkled throughout the film. Tony Todd’s appearance as a carnival barker was creepy and Bex Taylor-Klaus’ character felt mostly like a real authentic human being. Lead actress Amy Forsyth does as much as she can with the script she was given. She’s the character that sees the killer and no one believes her until they die. On a technical side of things there’s a some impressive shots but the movie really does not take advantage of it’s concept of being shot inside of an amusement park. If you’ve seen Game Night or any other films that Plotkin as edited in the past you’ll know he has a knack of editing scenes in an creative way but it’s missing throughout this film. There is a scene where a character gets stuck on a ride, which adds a nice little fear element and later there’s a little twist that goes with it that leads to a who is who moment.
The ending of the movie was a different take on your typical slasher movie. The Other enters into a home and there’s a little girl who is sleeping on the couch. It’s shot from behind his shoulder so we never see his face and it makes you think that she’s going to be his last victim for the night. The little girl awakens and ask The Other, “Daddy, what did you bring back for me?” and he proceeds to give her the stuffed toy prize he stole from his victim that he did a gruesome Gallagher impression with. The two embrace for a quick hug and then he walks into a room which has a cabinet with an assortment of mask and trophies from a previous Hell Fest. There’s about 5 other mask, a photo of the girl he killed from a previous Hell Fest; he places a photo from tonight’s events and tonight’s mask in the cabinet to the end the movie.
Showing his daughter at the end added to the implication that the killer could be anyone among us which was a theme throughout the film especially when things got hectic. This movie took that theme a little too serious because The Other doesn’t standout and he felt like just a normal guy. The movies biggest flaw is not utilizing it’s location, because if it did, this would have been an entertaining slasher film. Most of the deaths were just regular stabbings that could’ve taken place anywhere. There are tons of resources at a theme park including haunted houses and roller coaster rides but outside of a couple of scenes there weren’t many kills with thrills. The buildup to the stabbing in the trailer was fun because it uses the haunted house to its advantage. More scenes such as that would’ve been beneficial to the film. Six Flags set up a haunted house for their Halloween themed park and I hope it’s scarier than this film. Small budget movies can be fun, interesting, stylistically unique and somehow this movie did not accomplish any of those traits. A run time of only 89 minutes is the films saving grace since it isn’t too long. If there is another fest next season I hope it’s as entertaining for the viewers as it is for the parks attendees. The movie poster’s tagline is accurate in a sense, because it doesn’t describe the Hell Fest park, instead this movie’s premise was fun going in but it felt like hell going out.
[a si a si]
[All Mames Wey]