Hell Fest Review
If you’ve been to a festival or a large outdoor event of any kind you only dare to venture into the public toilets in a dire emergency. It’s a war zone inside and you never know what fatal disease you might pick up. And yet, it’s a state of mind completely ignored midway through Hell Fest as a character pops to the toilet in a large theme park, closes the cubicle door and actually sits down on the toilet seat. No tissue. Not even a quick wipe down. Nothing. It’s by far the most horrifying moment in director Gregory Plotkin’s dull slasher.
Toilet humour aside, the set-up for Hell Fest is actually a pretty good one. Before the credits have even finished we know who the menace will be. He’s a mask and hoodie-wearing killer with a worn out right boot (as we keep being shown) who stabs and hangs a young girl in a travelling horror amusement park. It all looks like part of the show and it gives the humming psycho pretty much free reign to do as he pleases without fear of being discovered.
Instead of using this smart idea as a platform to terrorise the audience, Plotkin makes a brave attempt for the jump scare world record. But very little of it exists within the actual plot of the film. We watch the characters move from one section of the park to the next, jumping out of their skin as ghoulishly dressed employees leap out to scare them. It happens in almost every scene, only occasionally remembering to revert back to the serial killer who has started stalking a group of teenage friends.
Those teenagers are college students Natalie (Amy Forsyth), Brooke (Reign Edwards) and Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). They have VIP passes that give them access to every area of the theme park, trailed by their forgettable, generic boyfriends who are barely even worth a mention. Unluckily for the group, the tool-wielding maniac has also decided to venture in for the night and it isn’t long before he takes a shine to Natalie and starts following her around from a distance.
Hidden behind a mask until the very end (in a ridiculous twist setting things up for a potential sequel), Michael Myers-lite carries no menace and even less of a personality. There is no explanation given for his kills, or what draws him towards Natalie. He is occasionally heard humming 'Pop Goes the Weasel' in a poor attempt to stress how mentally unhinged he might be but it sounds comical rather than intimidating. He also pops up in the most random of locations, and for a killer who has so much freedom and time on his hands he remains remarkably restrained.
If there is one positive it would be the theme park itself which looks and feels like a real place. More care and attention has been given to bringing the location to life rather than anything to do with the plot or characters involved. We aren’t even given the pleasure of enjoying the few mediocre murders that do occur, as the victims are so unremarkable and their deaths so uninteresting you forget it even happened the moment the scene is finished.
And yet, this is exactly the sort of horror cannon fodder that would perfectly suit a multiplex audience. Hell Fest is getting a mid-range release in the UK, even though it has a Blumhouse-style appeal that would suit weekend cinema goers looking for something that doesn’t require any hard work. The ending clearly shows it has ambitions of following up with a sequel, even though the longer the film continues, the more ironic its own title becomes.
Hell Fest is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th November.