I have a confession. I love slasher films. The teen scream, real campy and cheesy slasher film; I love everything about them. Their predictability, bad dialogue, stereotypical characters, ridiculous murder scenes, I love all of it. These are the movies that introduced me to the horror genre and the reason that I fell in love with it. These films that I love so dearly, haven’t been as popular for the last several years, but now they’re back! Most of the attention has been on the Halloween reboot that is coming in a few weeks (which I am also very excited for), but just this past weekend a much smaller slasher film called Hell Fest was released in theaters.
I recently found out about this movie and upon reading the plot description I immediately became excited. It promised to be the exact type of horror movie I love and it was going to release at the perfect time. The only concerns I had going into Hell Fest was if it was going to be the traditional slasher film that I love and if so would a movie like that still works. Horror is a different genre now. It’s very intense, dark and scary. The goal is to generate fear but sometimes I just want to have fun with a horror movie. Hell Fest was everything that I wanted it to be. It was the throwback slasher film that I was hoping for and it was a ton of fun.
A good slasher film needs a few things. There needs to be a group of young people (typically teenagers) going somewhere. This group needs to be full of stereotypical characters that are exaggerations of their stereotype. There needs to be a mysterious killer who is usually masked and lacks a reasonable motive. We also need some bad dialogue, jump scares and murders. To my delight, all of this was present in Hell Fest. The group that we follow is crucial to the movie’s success. If they aren’t fun to watch, then the movie won’t be fun, regardless of what is going on around them. For the most part, this group was a lot of fun. The only actor I was familiar with was the lead, Amy Forsyth (Natalie). She is a talented young actress whom you may have seen in NBC’s TV drama Rise. While she isn’t doing any serious acting in Hell Fest she is the perfect lead. She is fun, charismatic and perfectly fills her role as the heroine.
Natalie is the good girl who gets talked into doing things that she wouldn’t normally do by her friends, so she doesn’t drive too much of the fun. That is left up to the rest of the group and they do a pretty good job. In order for this movie to work this group has to be a good balance of wanting to spend time with them, while still wanting to see some of them die and that balance was struck perfectly. This is a fun group of people and in this setting (pre murders) they would be fun to spend time with. The humor was a bit clunky at times but they were having fun and that’s all I need to join in on the fun with them. The only character I didn’t really care for was Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). She was a little too over the top. This was really to the movie’s detriment because when it was time for her to go I wasn’t too upset. No one in this cast blew me away and this wasn’t a good gauge of how they are as performers. However they were a lot of fun to spend an hour and a half with, so they did their job perfectly.
As much fun as the cast was, the element that was the most fun was the setting. The event, “Hell Fest”, seems to be a play on Universal Studio’s “Halloween Horror Nights” or “Hal-O-Scream” at Busch Gardens. I am a fan of both of those events, so when I saw that being used as a premise I was intrigued. I can’t remember seeing a horror movie dive into that setting but it is brilliant. It adds so much to the movie in an organic way. You can add a ton of jump scares just from the houses (or mazes), which adds to the tension. It also adds to the fun because “Hell Fest” looks like a lot of fun! The design of “Hell Fest” is great, the mazes looked pretty good and the concept works as a setting and as a stand-alone event. As a backdrop to a slasher film it works well because it’s a fresh setting for the genre. “Hell Fest” on its own is scary and if you’ve ever been to one of these events, the idea of something going bad in that setting has crossed everyone’s mind. That adds to the whole experience making it all the better. Hell Fest works due in large part to its setting.
There is a lot to like about Hell Fest but there is one thing that bothered me, the killer. He checked most of the boxes for a killer in a slasher film. He was mysterious, masked, imposing and seemed to be void of any real motive. All of that was great but there was something that was missing. It may have been the lack of a distinguishable murder weapon but I wanted a little bit more from this killer. Slasher films become classics because of their killer and this subpar killer hurts Hell Fest. Overall, this movie is still a lot of fun. It is the perfect movie for this time of year and promises to be even more fun with each watch. If you’re like me and you like a good slasher film then Hell Fest is a must watch.
3 out of 5 stars
Director: Gregory Plotkin Writers: Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler, William Penick, Christopher Sey & Akela Cooper Starring: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Christian James & Matt Mercuio Release Date: September 28th Rated: R Runtime: 1 hour and 29 minutes