Hell Fest Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Vertigo Releasing
Directed by Gregory Plotkin
Written by Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler, Akela Cooper. Story by William Penick and Christopher Sey
2018, 89 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on April 1st 2019
Cynthea Mercado as Jodi
Stephen Conroy as The Other
Amy Forsyth as Natalie
Bex Taylor-Klaus as Taylor
At a horror-themed amusement park, one ‘guest’ gets a little too into the idea, picking off a gang of friends, one at a time. In a packed park full of unsuspecting revellers and costumed actors, one would think it the perfect place to go to town on one’s slasher-inspired murder spree, but the masked killer at and behind Hell Fest is a relatively restrained psychopath, largely restricting himself to the six (not all that interesting) friends. The space in the title, presumably, to differentiate the ‘fest, and this film, from the heavy metal music festival of the same name.
There is a smart idea at play here, with a serial killer hiding in plain sight amongst the park’s masked actors, fake scares, choreographed victims and pretend villains And Hell Fest plays out in the right way, like a slasher flick from the subgenre’s 90s boom, like a missing Scream or I Know What you Did Last Summer sequel. It even counts Bex Taylor-Klaus, from the Scream TV show, amongst its cast and features a cameo from genre icon Tony Todd.
As the ever-popular Hatchet series and the recent triumphant return of Michael Myers have proven, there’s still a place for self-aware, excessively gory slasher flicks, even today, and Gregory Plotkin’s entry into the subgenre is a nice throwback to the era’s heyday(s) with obvious passion and a number of good ideas up its sleeve.
Unfortunately, it’s let down by its dull pacing and irritating characters. Spirited as these kids may be, none of them are particularly interesting, and the banterous dialogue feels hollow and vaguely annoying. The scares too, are telegraphed and clichéd; for a killer with ample opportunity to do anything and appear anywhere, he lacks both imagination and brains, popping up exactly when and where the audience expects him to, every single time (and then not, in the case of the film’s fake-outs). Like the park itself (it’s no McKamey Manor.. hell, there are scarier rides at Disneyland) the killer is underwhelming and not at all scary.
Still, the film is well-acted and slickly directed, with fun gore effects, a lush, modern visual palette and fun kill sequences. It’s never original, clever or scary enough to match the movies which inspired it, but it does make for a fun diversion. Like Hell Fest itself, this movie makes for a tremendous idea, let down somewhat by its budget and (ahem) execution.
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