Even if there really is a murderer inside the park. I don't care. I'll still go.
From the director of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension comes a movie that’s much, much better than that: Hell Fest.
That is, if you’re into this kind of thing. Non-horror or genre fans need not apply with this one.
Three years ago, a woman from Orange County entered Hell Fest — which is basically a horror-themed park that travels the country every October, much like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (which is on my bucket list to someday attend) — for the first time, excited to see what scares awaited her.
She never came out alive.
The park employees found her body completed gutted and hiding among the park’s props a couple of days after it closed. To put it simply, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Fast-forward to present day and the Orange County girl is more of a myth than anything. A myth that Natalie (Amy Forsyth) has no intention of believing, but will still be forced to acknowledge again-and-again during her night at Hell Fest.
Natalie is returning home for the first time in years, excited to visit her old roommate Brooke (Reign Edwards). Upon arriving, however, she finds her old grade-school rival Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) there as well, excited to break the news that she’s become Natalie’s replacement.
To help ease that tension, Brooke tells Natalie not to worry about any of this because they’ve scored VIP tickets to Hell Fest for that evening. Taylor and her boyfriend Asher (Matt Mercurio) are coming too, of course, as is Brooke’s boyfriend Quinn (Christian James) and this other dude named Gavin (Roby Attal), but it’s still bound to be a good, scary time regardless.
While Natalie isn’t as into the idea as everyone else is, she agrees to come along — partially because Gavin is a total dreamboat who is really, really bad at subtly hiding his feelings for her.
At first, it’s a total blast. There’s a number of different horror mazes to walk through, gradually bringing them deeper and deeper into the park as they try to reach ‘The Gates of Hell,’ which is said to be the scariest maze of them all that you have to earn your way into (have I mentioned that I want to go here?)
After a while, however, Natalie begins to notice something strange. One of the park employees — a large male wearing an undead zombie mask — has been following them around ever since they first got here.
Initially, everyone kind of blows this off, thinking it’s just one of the minimum wage staff members who’s trying to spook them. As time goes on, though, the man continues to follow them and, worse yet, members of the group start to go missing one-by-one.
Suddenly, this doesn’t feel like a prank anymore. The bad news is that none of the security guards take the threat seriously, re-assuring Natalie and company that this is just an elaborate scare put on by the park. They aren’t so naive, though. This guy doesn’t belong with the rest of them and he seems to have some sort of personal vendetta against them.
This time, they might be the ones who don’t come out alive.
That’s all there is to Hell Fest. There’s no secret twists or hidden secrets. This isn’t something like Get Out, where there’s a bunch of social commentaries woven throughout to appeal to non-horror fans. It’s just bloody, insane fun.
Which is what I love about Hell Fest. Not every movie can pull something like that off, nor should they try to, but Hell Fest does it so well that I’m really not mad at the film for not aiming to be anything more.
Part — er, most — of that fun comes from the theme park itself, as the energy it gives off is contagious and effective. Honestly, I could have just watched this group walk through horror mazes the entire time without having to simultaneously deal with a psychotic killer. The creativity behind the whole set design was enough to completely win me over, as everything inside Hell Fest just looks like so much fun. That's just to begin with.
Then you add the component of a murderer on the loose inside the park and the whole thing becomes even more interesting. Director Gregory Plotkin really knows how to create effective, creepy scares when it comes to this, as the film has a really unsettling edge about it.
Perhaps unsettling is the best way to describe Hell Fest, as this isn’t in-your-face scary or trying to make you go home in tears. Rather, it’s just a light romp with some creepy moments, allowing you to enjoy yourself while dwelling in the atmosphere.
As for the rest of the characters, they weren’t half-bad. When the movie started off, I was afraid that I was going to become annoyed by all of them, as the ‘reunion’ scene is handled somewhat clumsily. As the movie went on, however, I began to find affection for them, eventually knowing all their names (which is pretty rare in horror movies when it comes to the secondary victims) and hoping they’d make it out alive.
Granted, there are some moments where all common sense goes out the window and it makes no sense for them to stay in the park any longer. To Hell Fest’s credit, they do attempt to give a reason why this group isn’t worried about their friends disappearing, and that works for a while. Eventually, though, it collapses in on itself, as these people should be high-tailing it out of the park and into the police office instead of continuing to go into mazes.
Still, that really didn’t bother me all that much about Hell Fest, because this movie won me over within seconds of when it started. The trailers sell you exactly what you’re going to get with this one, as it’s certainly not going to win over any non-horror fans. I take that as a good thing, though, as sometimes it’s nice just to watch a horror movie, made by horror lovers, that’s for the horror fans.
Watch the trailer for Hell Fest here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!
'Hell Fest' review: I want to go to this park SO badly8