By Steven Sheehan.
Retro horror films are still all the craze at the moment and Hell Fest is no different. We’ve not long had the release of Halloween, next year we have a new take on Pet Sematary and a Friday the 13th reboot is also on the way.
It’s a shame Hollywood constantly feels the need to rob the graves of old horror classics. Especially with so many fresh and exciting new releases in recent years.
Hell Fest is another that borrows heavily from 80s slashers. But instead of going for chills, blood and gore, it tries to set a new jump scare world record.
Set in a travelling horror-themed amusement park, it instantly gives director Gregory Plotkin an excuse not to bother doing anything to scare the audience.
Enjoying the fun for the night are college students Natalie (Amy Forsyth), Brooke (Reign Edwards) and Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). They have VIP passes along with their dull, numb-skulled, disposable boyfriends.
Before the opening credits have finished we know who the murderer will be. A masked serial killer is seen stabbing and hanging a girl in the haunted house of the theme park in another city.
Once the group have stepped foot inside the park he isn’t far behind. And it isn’t long before he takes a liking to Natalie and starts stalking her.
The killer is able to get away with murdering whoever he wants as bystanders think it’s all part of the show. We never see his face as he is hidden behind a mask. The only giveaway is the worn down leather on one of his boots.
It’s hard to write that last sentence with a straight face. But it’s true, and we are reminded of it again and again by the director.
Equally as true is the premise is a pretty good one. Giving the killer the freedom to kill at will without reproach should be the stuff of nightmares.
Instead, Hell Fest just gives us tedious jump scare after tedious jump scare. We follow the group in and out of the various parts of the theme park and all we get is Boo! in return.
The set is interesting enough and it feels and looks like a real place. Which makes it all the more disappointing that absolutely nothing worthwhile is done with it.
None of the characters are of any interest and there is very little pleasure in seeing them picked off. Something dark about Natalie’s past is teased but it amounts to nothing.
There is a Michael Myer-esque style to the masked killer. But he is as shallow as everything else in the film.
We never learn the reason he kills, or why he takes a shine to Natalie. He has zero personality and laughably appears in the most random of locations. All he has going for him is his tendency to hum Pop Goes the Weasel.
You search around for something to latch onto in Hell Fest but it never appears. It is as generic as horror films come and never once raises a scare.
That said, there is an audience for this type of film and a younger audience might enjoy it. The plot even sets things up for a sequel. We can only hope it never gets a chance.
Hell Fest is released in cinemas on Friday 16th November.