UK Release Date: 16th November 2018
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Writer: Seth M Sherwood, Blair Butler, Akela Cooper
Starring: Amy Forsyth, Roby Attal, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Christian James, Matt Mercurio, Tony Todd
Synopsis: A group of teenagers attending a Halloween theme park find themselves fighting for their lives when a killer uses the cover of the festivities to pick them off one by one.
When you see a movie called Hell Fest pencilled in for a Halloween release – albeit one delayed for a few weeks to avoid an actual Halloween film – you more or less know what you’re going to get. Fortunately for viewers of experienced horror editor Gregory Plotkin‘s sophomore feature as director, this is a film that knows what its audience is expecting and is entirely willing to deliver it.
Our protagonists are a group of attractive, excitable teens who are heading to the titular theme park, which is breathlessly described as “so fucking dope” in order to persuade timid Natalie (Amy Forsyth) to come along for the ride. It’s one of those horror experiences where actors in scary make-up leap out from shadowy doorways to make patrons jump. It quickly turns out, though, that one of those actors isn’t actually pretending and is genuinely killing customers. He inevitably takes a fancy to Natalie and her buddies, facilitating 90 minutes of stalk and slash stuff.
Given its highly derivative building blocks, it’s refreshing to see Plotkin lean in to inherent silliness of Hell Fest. This is not one of the so-called ‘elevated horror’ adventures we have seen in the last few years. Instead, it’s a blood-drenched throwback to the slashers of the 1980s, dealing in inventive, gruesome violence and tongue in cheek thrills. By the time Candyman star Tony Todd cameos as a macabre MC on a throne, Plotkin has set his stall out very clearly indeed.
But he does so with such gusto and joy that it’s tough not to have a good time. Hell Fest earns its 18 certificate with some audaciously staged splatter, including a slow-motion eye stab that is utterly horrific and one of the more unusual uses of the strongman game that I have ever seen. There’s dark comedy aplenty – watch out for the blunt guillotine – and the teens themselves are likeable enough that spending time with them for a few hours isn’t a chore. I could have done with a smidge more character, but that was never the goal of a movie like this.
So whether or not you enjoy Hell Fest largely comes down to what you want from it. If you’re after a splattery slice of horror stupidity, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. It builds to an ending that doesn’t quite land in the way it seems to want and is a little overly serious, but everything up until that point is a gory delight.
Pop or Poop?
There’s not much to say about Hell Fest that can’t be picked up from its title and trailer. It’s a moderately scary slasher homage that knows exactly where to pitch its ludicrous violence and dark humour.
There’s nothing here that’s going to revolutionise the genre, but horror fans will find a movie that scratches many of their ghoulish itches.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.