As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
The horror genre has it pretty easy as movies go. As long as the scares are there, the kills are fun, and the gore is plentiful, things like plot and acting get a pass. Having some leeway does not mean everything is excusable, however. Hell Fest decides to push the boundaries of what horror fans will find acceptable resulting in the wrong type of scares.
Hell Fest does not have the most original premise, but it is certainly an interesting one. A horror themed amusement park/party (the titular Hell Fest) is in town and a group of friends decide to go and have a fun night filled with scares. Unbeknownst to them, a vicious killer as decided to attend also.The most glaring issues with Hell Fest is the writing. In its finest moments, the movie is generic. The characters were taken straight out of the Horror Movie Handbook. While the setting is different, the idea is not much different than an unknown killer terrorizing a sorority or Halloween party. Since the entire movie takes place in what is essentially one gigantic haunted house, the audience expects jump scares rendering them almost useless. The movie is perfectly content to unfold before your eyes without leaving any sort of impression.
The good thing about a movie named Hell Fest is the audience knows that kills are going to be delightfully gruesome. Unless it is this movie. Hell Fest is one of the tamest slasher movies in years. There is an early kill (to the movie’s credit, it was an unexpected moment) that is graphic and a scene about an hour later that will remind some of Zombi 2, but the other killings are incredibly weak. The film also has no nudity and little swearing which makes its ‘R’ rating confusing.
The cast is where the writing truly cripples Hell Fest. The film subjects its audience to the least likable group of protagonists this side of Truth or Dare. Not only does the film lack any characters that the audience can get behind, those who watch the film would be hard pressed to find someone who they would be willing to sit in the same restaurant as. Brooke has so little to say she constantly repeats herself, Natalie is incredibly inconsistent going from frightened victim to brave party pooper, while Asher and Quinn are the stereotypes their names would suggest. Taylor is particularly odious and each moment she is on screen is worse than any of the movie’s lackluster kills. (Her character seems like it was written to be the “obnoxious” one in the bunch, but the writing makes her out to be so much worse.)Hell Fest’s big bad (imaginatively named The Other) is also a victim of poor writing. The Other is the least intimidating antagonist since air threatened Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel. He is seen getting knocked down by running extras, fairly easily dealt with, and sort of looks like your next door neighbor. The ending tries to explain all this, but it is too little too late.
Hell Fest is a fine idea in theory with a cast that tries its best with what they are given. Unfortunately, what they are given is a poorly written horror movie filled with stock characters and unimaginative moments that fails to deliver the scares intended.