Hell Fest plays out all its tricks with set design but forgets to scare.
Hell Fest is a horror slasher that takes place during Halloween and in an amusement park with Haunted House attractions. It’s a teen slasher where a group of young people get attacked by a masked killer who plays with them and kills them off one by one. Hell Fest feels modern with a nod to the eighties teen slasher genre, although without humor, but that operates by the standard rules of a slasher. The great Haunted House settings are well designed and serve as a great decor to spice up the atmosphere and thrills, which makes the film appealing to create that special Halloween vibe.
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Natalie returns to her hometown to spend Halloween with her best friend Brooke. Brooke’s new roommate Taylor tags along and so does Brooke’s boyfriend Quinn and Taylor’s boyfriend Asher and they also have set up a date for Natalie, Gavin. The six of them decide to go to Hell Fest an attraction specially made for Halloween in an amusement park. It starts out exciting and fun, but when a real killer is on the loose and has set his eyes upon the group, then the haunted house attractions become an all too real dangerous, deadly place.
Why you should watch it
Hell Fest is just fun solid entertainment and doesn’t pretend to be more than that. The haunted houses are greatly designed and add much to the fun and creepy atmosphere. These are the best parts of the film and the elements used, like the carts that bring you to the Deadlands, the horror actors roaming the park, all bring some delicious scares and tension. But these haunted houses are the best scares. The kills are not too original and the killer who is called The Other isn’t as scary or threatening as some of the actors in the park. What’s even worse is that he has no motive at all. There’s no satisfying conclusion about these killings. True, that’s also not exactly the case in Halloween (1978), but the way that film is shot and how the tension is built, lacks in Hell Fest.
The characters are likable but nothing more. There’s no background story to them. There’s no mystery surrounding them why they might be targeted by The Other. But on the other hand they don’t do illogical or stupid things either. There’s some tension between Natalie and Brooke, but what that exactly entails, doesn’t become clear. While The Other isn’t that scary and the group of friends quite normal, the kills however are in contrast very brutal, although not explicitly shown. But the kills are rather uninspired and when you’re dead you’re out of the picture. Not coming back as a prop in a haunted house attraction what would have been extra fun.
Hell Fest plays too much by the rules, not scaring or surprising us with a great twist or original kills or turns to make this experience really dire. It’s all very standard and certainly without some campy humor to bring in some much needed comic relief or even a hint at an ode and or parody, this feels like a missed opportunity. For the set designs and art decoration and some fun incidents and the likable characters were great but not used to its fullest. Though still entertaining enough and not a bad film, this could have been so much greater, scarier and more fun.
My favorite part
When Tony Todd and his guillotine appeared and Taylor became the volunteer to put her head in, was a great scene and not what you would have expected. Also the ride to the Deadlands that Natalie has to go through alone is a very trilling trip and fun. But the best part were the haunted house attractions and the whole vibe and atmosphere in the park itself. They were fun and chilling and what made this film better than it actually was.
Thrill factor: ★★☆☆
Scare factor: ★★☆☆☆
Popcorn factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★☆☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
Cast and crew
Hell Fest is directed by Gregory Plotkin and written by Seth M. Sherwood, Balir Butler, Akela Susco and story by William Penick, Christopher Sey, Stephen Susco. It stars Amy Forsyth (Natalie), Reign Edwards (Brooke), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Taylor), Christian James (Quinn), Matt Mercurio (Asher), Roby Attal (Gavin) and Tony Todd (The Barker).
Duration: 89 minutes. Music: Bear McCreary. Cinematography: José David Montero. Edited by: Gregory Plotkin, David Egan. Produced by: Gale Anne Hurd, Tucker Tooley. Production company: Tucker Tooley Entertainment, Ingenuity Studios, Valhalla Motion Pictures. Distributed by: CBS Films, Lionsgate.