- Matthew Turner
- 13 November 2018
A serial killer stalks a theme park on Halloween in this solid, if underwhelming, horror
Not to be confused with similarly themed 2018 horrors Blood Fest and Fright Fest, Hell Fest is a theme park-set slasher movie from editor-turned-director Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension). As generic slashers go, Hell Fest pushes all the right buttons and delivers its fair share of nasty moments, though it's not without its flaws.
After a grisly prologue, the film follows university student Natalie (Amy Forsyth), who reunites with BFF Brooke (Reign Edwards) and heads to Hell Fest – a horror theme park with spooky rides, mazes and actors in costume – for Halloween, accompanied by Brooke's annoying roommate Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and cute guys Quinn (Christian James), Asher (Matt Mercurio) and Gavin (Roby Attal). Little do they know that a masked, hooded serial killer (Stephen Conroy, whose face is never seen) is using Hell Fest as his annual hunting ground, and soon he's targeting Natalie and her friends.
The main thing in Hell Fest's favour is that a decent amount of thought has gone into the main concept, with the park actually seeming like an appealing option for scare-hungry teens on Halloween weekend. Similarly, there are a handful of nice ideas among the expected fake-outs and jump scares, including an inspired twist involving the killer's Mike Myers-ish costume.
On top of that, the film makes stylish use of its smoke and neon budget and Plotkin delivers some extremely nasty gore moments. Other nice touches include the fact that the characters don't die in the order you expect.
The actors are all fine (they're convincing as a group of friends, even if they're painfully underwritten), but the film criminally wastes horror icon Tony Todd, who pops up for a short cameo as a spooky ringmaster and then promptly disappears.
The main problem is that the film peaks too soon – the middle section generates both tension and scares, but the final act is disappointing by comparison. It's hard to shake the idea that a satisfying climax has been sacrificed in favour of a sequel-promising coda.
General release from Fri 16 Nov.