A fun October night at a spooky amusement park becomes all too real when a masked man, disguised as a park actor, starts slashing teenagers. “Welcome to Hell Fest”.
The story follows a small group of six stereotypical characters. We meet Natalie (an innocent, good girl played by Amy Forsyth), Brooke (the rambunctious, popular friend played by Reign Edwards), and Taylor (the enthusiastic, horror geek played by Bex Taylor-Klaus).
The three guys in the group are cringingly interchangeable and basically canon fodder for the killer. Due to the lazy script, we learn nothing interesting about any of these characters throughout the film. The highlight of the cast is our protagonist, Brooke, who generally avoids acting like a stupid horror movie character and is likable enough to cheer on throughout the movie.
Picture the cast of your typical slasher film. This is no different.
Gregory Plotkin, editor of Get Out, has clearly improved his craft since his last directing effort, 2015’s Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. While the first act of his directing style is not impressive, he truly redeemed himself with his relentlessly entertaining “maze” sequences.
Plotkin showed a deft touch in the way he built suspense and staged scares in the movie. Cleverly, some scares come from the mazes themselves via animatronics and actors. While many will spout these jumps are “false”, I totally disagree. The “maze” jumps disorientate the audience perfectly, just as it does the teenage victims. It was refreshingly unique for this type of film.
What truly sells the “maze” sequences is the outstanding production/set design by Michael Perry and art direction by Mark Dillon, which makes you wish this incredible “Hell Fest” was a real place.
Complete with authentic animatronics, fantastic costumes, wonderful “set” decorating, and terrifying masks, this staged theme park was perfectly realized and masterfully constructed. I was constantly in awe, just as I would be in real-life, by these insane maze layouts and props. As a fan of haunted houses, I was geeking out throughout the film.
Finally, let’s talk about the slasher.
Sporting no more than a creepy mask, a dirty pair of boots, and a sweatshirt, it is safe to say this look is underwhelming. However, his stoic presence and “smart-aleck” actions were quite entertaining to watch.
Essentially, a mixture between Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, the slashing was suitably brutal and chilling, but still not as intense as you may have wanted. The kills seemed oddly dialed back in the blood and gore department for a rated-R slasher flick. Nonetheless, I enjoyed his performance and essence on screen, especially in the third act.
Without spoiling anything, the third act is utterly fantastic, ending on an unforgettable, “Strangers-esque” final scene that sets up sequel opportunities wonderfully.
In conclusion, it gets off to a rocky start, but, through incredible set design, solid suspense, & some old-school death scenes, the film sticks the landing. I never thought I’d be on board with a Hell Fest sequel, but I am. If you’re a fan of haunted houses & slasher films, you will enjoy the “hell” out of it. I sure did.