Movie Review: "Hell Fest" (2018)
I’m a child of the 1980’s (if you weren’t already aware). I’m also a product of the local video store. My childhood weekends consisted of a stack of horror movies, another stack of Nintendo games, some battered copies of Fangoria and WWF Magazine, and a couple of pizzas to serve as sustenance. Being a child of the 1980’s means that I eat, sleep, and breathe horror. It also means that, naturally, my subgenre of choice is the slasher film.
My first slasher was Friday the 12th Part 2 (I know I went out of order, so sue me…I was a fucking kid). From that moment forward, I gravitate towards anything involving a masked killer and something you can forcefully jam into a human being where things aren’t supposed to be jammed. Slashers just cause the synapses in my brain to fire a little faster than other types of horror films. So, you know I had to get in on the action in Hell Fest.
I guess we really are a product of our generational pop culture, eh?
Natalie (Amy Forsyth; SYFY’s Channel Zero: The Dream Door) has come back home to visit her BFF, Brooke (Reign Edwards; CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful). The bad news is that Brooke’s new roommate is punky and bitchy smartass, Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus; MTV’s Scream TV series). The good news is that Natalie’s crush, Gavin (Roby Attal) is interested in seeing her again. Along with a few other friends (and thanks to Gavin’s VIP hookup) they are going to “Hell Fest”, a traveling Horror Park of extreme reputation. The shitty news is that a masked killer is attending this year, and Natalie is his type.
That’s really all the setup you need. It is a slasher flick, after all.
Here’s the thing you need to know up front (and it’s both a positive and a negative): you won’t see anything in Hell Fest that you haven’t seen before. It’s a formulaic slasher flick, painting by the numbers in blood red. The leads are comprised of a virginal good girl, a nerdy (but not too nerdy) love interest, a sexy best friend and her hunky boyfriend, and the world’s most annoying couple. Most deserve to die, as they say, and get what they deserve.
With that being said, the painting by the numbers is done with some serious detail. It’s lovingly shot- the the high and wide looks are impressively sharp and the scenes of death and peril have a more gritty and grainy look. Hell Fest is unafraid of what it is and instead focuses on doing what it does correctly. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
It’s not a cheap slasher, by any means. The production value is high ($5.5 million budget), and they spared no expense on making the “Hell Fest” setting a living, breathing entity of its own. Horror nuts will love the color palette and the overall feel of the park. Location can be a character in its own right, and director Gregory Plotkin (Director of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Editor on Get Out and Happy Death Day) maximized the effectiveness of his toolkit.
Also, I dug the feel…the vibe…of Hell Fest. I know that is a purely personal interpretation depending on the viewer, but it just rolls like a classic slasher of yesteryear in the beats and pacing. It may not be a film that has a ton of repeat viewings in it, but it does have some legs. Major points are given on the landing; that ending made me want to see more of the killer and his story. Not many (if any) slashers have gone there, and I want more.
I’m assuming there will be a sequel. Actually, I’m hoping it makes enough bank back to greenlight a sequel so that Plotkin can return and flesh out the most important character in any slasher film: the killer.
It’s not perfection. The hype of the legendary Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination) is the classic case of making you think a cameo is a bigger role; a personal pet peeve of mine. Mostly, my issues come from missed opportunities to flesh out the killer and maybe subplot somehow. I hate to see a movie that does so much right leave runners on the bases. Hell Fest also came out right around the same time as Blood Fest, and a lot of folks don’t know the difference. The former is a classic slasher; the latter is an homage to Cabin in the Woods. They both just happen to have the same setting and style.
So, where’s that sequel? You know it’s begging for one.
3.5 out of 5.0 stars