When released in the States back in September 2018, Hell Fest crashed out to a poor box office despite what promised to be a great premise with something that was reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse, (a forgotten gem) albeit with a more distinctive teen-slasher vibe in this instance.
There is a phrase that ‘Monsters don’t always lurk in the shadows, sometimes they hide in plain sight’, and what better way to hide and stalk your prey than in a nightmare entertainment theme park, built to scare and delight its customers.
As the teens enter The Dead Lands, an area of the theme park where the workers are allowed to physically touch you in their attempts to up the scare ante, a masked figure known as ‘The Other’ begins to circle and focus on his prey and inevitably picks them off one by one.
Hell Fest contains all the hallmarks of what should be a fun ride which it is including some brutal kills that have you grimacing in your seat, so why did it bomb and not resonate with its cinema going audience?
Most critics citied its lack of originality
and that it fell to formulaic tropes within the genre with most of the
characters presented as two-dimensional representations of what most horror
fans have seen before. Although I did find Bex Taylor-Klaus’ performance of the
wayward and rebellious Taylor, fun to watch.
I do find it hard to defend Hell Fest though, as it does appear to tread old ground and you never really feel connected to the characters. It’s a shame because director Gregory Plotkin’s (Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension) sophomore outing has a great playing field to draw out the horror and offer some unique approaches to the genre, but fails to deliver.
Whilst Hell Fest is a fun ride, the ride itself becomes all too familiar all too quickly and the thrills whimper out with barely a flicker on the scare-ometer. And hey, it was awesome to see Tony Todd on screen as the theme park’s barker, despite his screen time being way too small.
- Saul Muerte