A group of friends go to Hell Fest, a horror amusement park, but find themselves stalked by a masked serial killer…
Hell Fest is the third film I’ve seen this year, that has the same basic idea as another two, Blood Fest and (American) Fright Fest, of an people getting caught up in real horror during a horror event of sorts.
But the approach of each has been different. Blood Fest managed to infuse some humour to the story that mostly worked. Fright Fest, I was disappointed with, felt it wasted the potential of the story.
Hell Fest is a definite throwback to the slasher genre. It also, to a degree owes a debt to Tobe Hooper’s film The Funhouse (to be fair the other two probably do as well). It has the mix of character’s you expect in a slasher film, it has the masked killer and has some okay death scenes.
But and it is a big one, the story is one that is so damned annoying! The killer is never identified, which I have no problem with, a mysterious killer can give a film an edge. his motivation seems to be that he targets those who attend these types of events and don’t find them scary. I say seem to be, as it isn’t fully made clear. The very end too is an issue, as the film has no real resolution, in that while the story for these characters appears to be over, the story itself is left unresolved. It could be there are plans to continue this in a second film, but the ending leaves unanswered questions, that spoil your enjoyment. There’s also the inconsistent nature of the killer himself. We are led to believe he is a serial killer, but as I said he behaves more like a slasher type of killer, picking of the group one by one.
Then there is the group themselves. The film has a number of writers involved, with a story by Chris Sey and William Penick and a script written by Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler and Akela Cooper. But despite so many being involved, the characters are very cliched indeed. They are ones we’ve seen seen in umpteen horror films over the years. You know who the heroine will be, as soon as she turns up on screen and we can guess who will be the ones to die.
And yet, despite the cliches on display, the film does actually manage to pull off a couple of surprises, including the death of a character, which while you know is coming happens earlier than you perhaps expected.
Far more perplexing though is a moment early on. The main character, Natalie, observes a terrified girl trying to hide from a masked killer. Somehow, despite the clear terror she sees in the girl, she stands and watches as the killer stabs her. She puts it down to an actress working at Hell Fest being convincing and dismisses it, which in turn makes her the target of the killer, but you have to think she would see the genuine fear on the girls face and try and help, instead she does nothing. It’s a moment in the film that in a way takes some of your sympathy for Natalie as the killing of her friends begin later.
The director of Hell Fest, Gregory Plotkin, directed the final Paranormal Activity film and has worked as an editor on films such as Happy Death Day and Get Out as well as a number of Paranormal Activity sequels. As a result, he knows how to edit to generate some good scare moments, or some good jump moments. While Hell Fest doesn’t scare as much as you want it too, he does manage to create a bit of tension at times and the death scenes are done pretty well.
The cast aren’t bad. Amy Forsyth plays Natalie and is pretty good in the role. Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Christian James, Roby Attal and Matt Mercurio as her friends aren’t bad, even if the characters are stereotypes. There’s a cameo from Tony Todd, who is also the voice of the amusement park.
Hell Fest isn’t a bad film. It never outstays it’s welcome, there are some good moments in the film and the deaths are well done. But the annoying writing leaves the film feeling unresolved. Which is a shame.
It’s not as fun as Blood Fest was, but it is far better than (American) Fright Fest. Hell Fest may have a lot of cliches, but if you can get past them, then you may enjoy the park.
Rating: **1/2 out of 5