Gregory Plotkin (director)
16 November 2018 (released)
15 November 2018
There isn’t anything in Hell Fest that is remotely original or innovative. The recent Overlord also plays with well known horror tropes, the difference is that had a good budget and wasn’t too preoccupied about its sources. The makers of Hell Fest on the other hand have consciously set out to pay homage to the cheapo grindhouse slasher flicks of the 80’s with a cast of throwaway characters and situations that just invite you to tick them off.
The Hell Fest carnival is in town and Natalie (Amy Forsyth) and pals are off to spend Halloween at the huge ghoulish mazy collection of rides and attractions that has arrived in town. It’s an all inclusive experience with the Hell Fest employees an integral part of the carnival, there to confuse and terrify the punters. However there is a person who is using the carnival as a killing ground hiding within the crowds, taking advantage of the blurring of fantasy and reality to notch up a personal bodycount.
As the night progresses the chums have fun, split up, and get killed. It eventually starts to dawn on the survivors that something isn’t quite right. And so begins the chases and red herrings that are absolutely integral to this type of film. The viewer, well versed or not, will have a pretty good idea of where this is going. The fun is in how it gets there.
That is done via a variety of grisly deaths - fair-ground hammer, eye violence but two - the latter a direct reference to Dead and Buried. It’s all very efficient with lots of running about amongst the scary rides with a complementing garish colour scheme. There are however stretches where the patience is stretched and it becomes overly arch, as it nods and winks through the conventions of the genre.
This is Gregory Plotkin’s second full length genre film, though he has plenty of experience as an editor. And with a screenplay contributed to by Seth M. Sherwood (Leatherface) and producer Gale Ann-Hurd (Walking Dead) involved there’s some heavyweight genre experience. So it’s disappointing that they couldn’t achieve the homage they so desired with a bit more excitement. The idea is not a bad variation on the scary funhouse and there are some impressive sets and beats. Its just they devote too much to developing the killer’s mythology with the inevitable option left open.