I should say that I love slasher movies. I adore the sub-genre and long before I fell in love with the genre of horror cinema, slasher movies were my bread and butter. I am all for a resurgence of slasher movies but if Gregory Plotkins’ “Hell Fest” is the attempt at starting a new renaissance of the sub-genre, it’s a horrible step forward. I don’t know how audiences will greet “Hell Fest” in ten years, but save for Tony Todd’s appearance I imagine this will be thought of as another horror groaner banking on the thirst for horror for the season. With five writers, “Hell Fest” never quite rises above utterly abysmal, and at best, would probably make okay background noise at a Halloween party.
“Hell Fest” is one of the most humongous horror themed fairs and haunted house parks in the world, and Natalie (Amy Forsyth) and her friends manage to attend, despite the high glut of crowds. Thanks to a special connection they manage to grab VIP wristbands and enter in to the park for a night of frights, and jump scares, and games. But before long Natalie begins to realize she and her friends are being stalked by a masked man in cruddy boots. Armed with a butcher knife, the killer begins to form an unusual obsession with she and her friends, and as the body count rises, they have to figure a way out of the park and alert the authorities before they’re all on the chopping block.
“Hell Fest” is so utterly conventional even when it doles out brutal deaths like a smashed in head and needle in the eye. It never quite offers up a distinct angle, or some kind of shocking twist. It begins, it goes through the doldrums, and it ends with a sad trombone. That’s what’s even more tragic about “Hell Fest,” it implies that the killer is someone perhaps we should know, or maybe the killer has this distinct goal that will surely leave audiences in disbelief or slapping their foreheads stunned. But once the movie finally winds down to the climax, and the big reveal occurs, it’s nothing but a dry heave leaving us to ask what the point was. I wish I could have found the nonsensical final scene at least the slightest bit clever, but it’s just the sign of writers that obviously didn’t know how to end on a logical note.
“Hell Fest” isn’t even a tolerable whodunit, because there is no sense of character depth with anyone we meet here. Everyone is pretty much drawn out to be cannon fodder for the masked slasher when we meet them, save for the final girl Natalie. Even she sticks to her duties as final girl. She gasps, she runs, she screams, she fights back a bit, she urges everyone “We have to run!” and she survives. I spent a lot of my time assuming perhaps the killer was someone related to Natalie, but then I couldn’t figure out who because we learn almost nothing about the characters that go on this harrowing journey in to the funhouse. Not to mention there’s zero back story or exposition. “Hell Fest” is lazy slasher movie fodder that nods to better slasher films like “Funhouse,” “Halloween 4,” and “Slaughter High” and you’re better off watching those.