By SABINA IDRIZ
Halloween is coming up and with it, visits to haunted houses. Hell Fest, a new slasher film directed by Gregory Plotkin, looks like the perfect movie to both prepare and scare but just ends up disappointing.
This film does deserve some credit – the plot looks so good it’s hard to believe they could mess things up. The protagonist Natalie (Amy Forsyth) comes home from college and her friend Brooke (Reign Edwards), alongside Brooke’s roommate Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus), convince her to spend a night with them at Hell Fest, a new and wildly popular traveling horror theme park. Natalie’s longtime crush Gavin (Roby Attal) who she hasn’t seen in some time tags along and sparks fly. The other girls bring their own dates, and this group of friends soon find themselves being stalked and terrorized by someone wearing the same mask as other park actors, trying to kill them off one by one.
While so much could have been done with this premise, it was ruined by the bland at best dialogue and unlikable, two-dimensional characters. Hell Fest wants you to root for the gang to make it out alive but doesn’t give you enough reason. Natalie and Gavin’s budding romance is shoved in our faces with a kissing scene but the chemistry feels forced and out of place in the middle of a rash of murders. There’s just no cause for the audience to become invested; no character development takes place, we get hardly any background stories and the acting just feels ingenuine.
The one interesting character is Taylor, but even then Taylor-Klaus could not do enough with the lines this script gave her. I saw her in MTV’s Scream series and she shined. This film does not do her acting ability any justice, but I applaud her for how close she came to making this movie enjoyable.
There is a touching moment between Natalie and Brooke as they promise each other they will go to Spain soon to strengthen their friendship. It leaves you hoping they’ll be able to fulfill this promise after all and make it out alive but is never referenced again and seems pointless – much like the rest of this movie.
The most (or only) exciting parts of Hell Fest are the murder scenes, which are filled with gory imagery. From the shot of a syringe going through an eyeball to a person’s head getting bashed in with a mallet, they don’t seem like they held back at all. These scenes were filled with suspense and definitely the silver linings of the film. I was glad that although they couldn’t make me care for any of the characters, I was still left in horror.
Spoilers ahead: the worst part by far was how the anticipation for the killer’s unmasking or at least for revelations about him and his motivations to be made builds up throughout the movie… and you never get it. Other slashers, take the Scream movies, for instance, elaborate on who the antagonist was, usually having it be a person the main character knew. This mystery is never solved. The big reveal we have to settle for at the end is that he’s the loving father of a young girl, and I couldn’t make myself care in the slightest about it. It all ties back to a snippet of conversation had earlier in the movie when the gang talks about the monsters that walk among us; if done right, it could have been clever.
As the credits rolled, my boyfriend – who suggested we go see it and was plenty excited – turned to me and said he almost fell asleep. That should tell you all you need to know about this movie. A word of advice to you: don’t go into the theatre with high expectations.
ILLUSTRATION A DEPICTION OF THE HELL FEST MOVIE | ILLUSTRATION BY LASHA STEWART, ILLUSTRATOR