Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Movie Review: "Hell Fest" (2018)

Director: Gregory Plotkin
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

A group of college kids heads to a horror festival for a night of fake frights but are met with real terror when a killer disguised as a performer starts to murder festival patrons one by one.

Hell Fest 2018 movie still Amy Forsyth
"What can I say? Some people are just evil." (Image Source)
A quick note to any and all filmmakers before we begin: the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" is never, ever creepy, no matter how slowly and gravelly someone hums it. "Hell Fest" is directed Gregory Plotkin, who has one other feature directorial credit in the film "Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension." This film has five writers, which seems like four too many for a story this simple. Like most slashers, it revolves around a group of college kids. The fun-loving Brooke (Reign Edwards) hopes to help her studious best friend Natalie (Amy Forsyth) let loose for an evening. Brooke also wants to help Natalie hook up with her crush Gavin (Roby Attal), who has scored them and a bunch of their friends VIP tickets to "Hell Fest," a traveling horror festival. The group goes to Hell Fest looking for a night of fun and frights, but things get all too real when a killer dressed like a festival performer starts to stalk the group, killing several people along the way.
Hell Fest 2018 movie still Reign Edwards
"This isn't how I wanted the night to go." (Image Source)
Creating a slasher that takes place at a horror festival is a solid concept. "Hell Fest" isn't the first movie to use this setting as a stage for Halloween scariness. This framework allows masked killers to blend seamlessly into their surroundings, and murderers can quickly disappear into a crowd at a moment's notice. This carnival-type location also makes witnesses less conscious of whether or not a body is actually a person or a prop, and it makes people getting killed look like part of the act since everyone is surrounded by scary things where performers are allowed to touch patrons. It also allows filmmakers to implement jump scare moments that actually fit within the context of the story. Sure, most of them are still cheap, but it makes total sense for haunted houses and mazes and horror carnivals to be loaded with things jumping out going BOO!

The acting in "Hell Fest" is basic. The characters are thinly written, and the story is simple and cliche. Characters do stupid things over and over again, but these factors don't make something inherently devoid of fun. Director Gregory Plotkin manages to create a modicum of tension here and there, and there are a couple of intense moments of mild mayhem, too. There are some extremely bloody death scenes which we found to be gruesome and unsettling. The antagonist, The Other, is average at best and doesn't have a great on-screen presence. He doesn't have an ominous aura about him, but the 'average man' quality of his character plays an integral role in the story. If those behind the scenes had cut out the audio of the killer humming "Pop Goes the Weasel," it would have increased the scare factor by a good 15-20%. We know, ~*it means something,~* but we couldn't help but roll our eyes every time it happened. It's just a bad shtick.
Hell Fest 2018 movie still The Other Stephen Conroy
"He's an actor. He gets paid minimum wage to fuck with people." (Image Source)
In the end, this is a basic throwback 80's-style slasher that achieves its purpose for the most part. If you are looking for character and story depth, look elsewhere. But, if you're looking for a simple slasher with decent tension and some cool looking death scenes, "Hell Fest" is not a bad bet. We'll take a mediocre horror flick like this over dumpster fires like "Slender Man," "The Other Side of the Door," "Truth or Dare," and "The Bye Bye Man" any day.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.9/10
RT Rating: ~44%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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