This CBS Films entrée into the old fashioned genre of slasher movie uses all the tried and true tricks of the trade and gives it a nice, fresh coat of paint. There are a lot of outright nods to the old days, like a cameo with Tony Todd, and the introductory kill ending with a young woman hung by the spine like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The main characters run the typical gamut of stereotypes, from the Nice Guy to The Punky Loose Girl, and the bad guy is both low key and reminiscent of several famous slasher dudes.
Hell Fest is the name of the travelling horror carnival that is set in a real life amusement park. There are hundreds of scary extras wandering the beautifully decked out park, all intent on unnerving or wowing you with their coolness. All the rides and carnival games are geared toward a colorful creep factor, and everything gets more ominous the closer you get to the enclosed center part of the park, which is reputed to be actually dangerous. You have to sign a waiver to get in, stating you will allow park employees to touch you. Oh no, they didn’t! Oh yes, they did. I thought that was a really clever touch. One of several clever ideas.
You might think you’ve seen this movie a hundred times before, and you’d be right. Because every slasher thing is in the movie, you would expect to begin guessing who will be the one survivor, and whether it is a classic Final Girl or maybe an updated Final Boy. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I had my Final Girl guess somewhat wrong, in part by quite a bit. If you like jump scares you’ve come to the right place as well. Considering the genre it didn’t bother me, much, and they were well done.
I was pleased that the slasher guy wasn’t an over the top attempt to outshine Freddie et.al. but was his own man. He wasn’t terribly scary for a while, except for his preternatural sense of being in the right place at the right time with the right killing tool. There was a fantastic red herring thrown in to great effect, and then the killing begins in earnest. The first non-core group death was actually very horrific and very unnerving, but all the ones after that were standard victim/setting/implement pairings, like choosing the correct wine with your entrée, and all rendered well except for one. One of the deaths, while gruesome and sad if you liked that character, reminded me a lot of The Terminator scene where he gouges out his defective eye with a scalpel. Even in 1984 the fx were terrible in that scene, and I was surprised to see something almost as clunky in the otherwise beautifully shot Hell Fest.
I recommend this movie, especially for a group Movie Night. If you’re friends are young and not used to the old slasher films, this is a good gateway drug, and if your friends are older and enjoy a good Freddie or Jason, they will like this pretty and clever homage to the classics.
HELL FEST Official Trailer (2018) Horror Movie HD
CFR: In Addition: This is why I don’t do slashers. I want to yell “That’s why you carry guns, you idiots!!” I can’t take me anywhere. Then again, Mildred’s reviews always tempt me….