Hell Fest is a travelling carnival (imagine Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights if it came to your town). The coolest show in town has arrived for Halloween and tickets are extremely hard to come by. Gavin really likes Natalie, and when he finds out she’s going to be spending the weekend with her best friend Brooke, he manages to snag VIP passes to the event to try and impress her and her friends. Unfortunately for Natalie, someone else has taken a liking to her too. A masked serial killer who uses the spectacle and fake scares of Hell Fest to his advantage to commit murder.
Despite the credentials of its highly experienced crew, amazing sets and a genuinely likeable cast, Hell Fest is (very sadly) a little bit underwhelming. It scores points for initially taking time to develop its characters to some extent, but the pacing is all over the place. It takes forever for someone (we care about) to die (which is never a good thing in a 90-minute slasher film) and then it possibly dispatches of a third of the main cast within 60 seconds 5 minutes from the end! I say possibly, because the pacing is so quick and the fate of said characters is never confirmed (to the best of my knowledge).
The sets and cinematography are wonderful, with the reds and greens on display reminiscent of Glen Morgan’s visually pleasing but trashy Black Xmas remake. The cast which includes the always excellent Tony Todd, Scream the TV series’ Bex Taylor-Klaus and Channel Zero: No End House’s Amy Forsyth are all genuinely likeable which helps their characters come alive. They made me laugh and I cared about them. The excellent Bear McCreary turns in another awesome score too.
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Despite everyone’s best intentions and some fine elements at play, the individual strands never quite come together. It’s as though the setting itself (whilst undoubtedly being the film’s strongest selling point) works against the effectiveness of the film, as you find yourself jumping at the organic funhouse elements by chance, as opposed to any of the designed set pieces. The coda at the end is pleasing (and dare I say, even a little chilling) but the ending overall is weak, as very little is explained. Now I don’t need to be spoon fed, but it really leaves the viewer hanging by a thread and not in a cliffhanger kind of way either.
I really wanted to like this more than I ultimately did, but I'm still glad I turned up to support it. Especially as me and my friend were the only 2 people there. We need to support new horror movies or we'll not get any. It's a bit of a miracle that this made it to my multiplex (albeit for a limited run) but it seemed to get little support. Whether it's because Halloween has been and gone and everyone's gearing up for Christmas, or because of the turn in the weather remains to be seen. I do hope it finds an audience once it hits home media however, as there is a lot to like about this ambitious little film.