by Hope Madden
Hell Fest is not the first film to point out that it would be really dangerous if any of the masked meanies inside a Halloween haunt were, indeed, a murder-happy maniac. It’s not a bad premise, just not a new one.
In keeping with the not-so-fresh theme, this film is a straight-up, unapologetic slasher. Not a nostalgia-seeped, homage-laden satire or meta-commentary. Nope. Hell Fest is an unironic slasher. Six nubile youths drink some shots and head into a situation that should be fun but does, of course, hold the potential for serious danger. But they’re young, they’re immortal, they’re so hot and horny.
Why so much groping, by the way? They aren’t that drunk, they have homes, none of them just got out of prison. That’s the thing about slashers: we’ve seen so, so, so many of them over the years that the cracks in the formula are gaping holes by this point.
Nevertheless, Hell Fest stays its by-the-numbers course. Director Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) manages to keep the energy high, even as the story weaves tediously through an amusement park.
The script, penned by a committee of five, doesn’t burden itself with much in the way of backstory or the need for character arc. Of the six, Natalie (Amy Forsyth) is the smartest and least slutty. She is, therefore, the target of our slow-moving, weirdly strong, masked marauder.
Her friends are mainly over-the-top caricatures of humans, but there’s an almost believable camaraderie among them. Forsyth fares best, clumsily flirting with the equally awkward Gavin (Roby Attal) as their overdressed friends drink from flasks and tell us how very excited they are.
While a couple of the attractions are fun, the main problem with Hell Fest is that it is not scary. Not for a minute. Nor is it gory—for a film with an R rating, there’s almost no blood, absolutely no nudity and very few F-bombs. It’s as if they hoped for a PG13 rating, didn’t get one and now they’re stuck with a movie that can’t entertain the wee ones and won’t entertain adults.
They do have Tony Todd, though. When has that ever been a bad idea?
I know, October is basically here and you just want to find some new scary movies to put you in the mood. Dude, seriously, Halloween comes out in two weeks. Just hold your horses.