“You came here to be scared, right? I can’t arrest people for doing their jobs.“- Security Guard
Six college-age friends decide to attend Hell Fest, a traveling carnival consisting of several haunted-houses and similar attractions. However, they soon find themselves being stalked and killed by a mysterious figure.
Hell Fest is a very enjoyable slasher movie. Spoilers and more below the cut.
One of the big factors in this movie’s success is the characters. Both the acting and the writing sell the idea that these are real people one would wish to spend time with and, like the best slashers, they are all likable and don’t even approach the verge of being annoying idiots or grating assholes. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was ever dreading their deaths, but I was never wishing for their deaths or cheering on the killer.
Speaking of the deaths, they are done quite well, with a good amount of viscerality and gore to them. The highlights involved creative uses of a needle and your typical circus mallet. Even the sequences that are just a simple stabbing make good use of sound design, utilizing this nice somewhat-squishy effect as the knife is twisted around in a girl’s chest. A minor nitpick is that some deaths are treated as instantaneous when they would take a minute or so.
Another thing the movie gets right is how adept it is at building suspense. There’s an extended sequence involving a guillotine that is, for my money, the highlight of the movie. There are even a couple of sequences involving the girl set up to be our survivor where there seemed to be a very real chance they’d pull the rug out and off her.
The film-makers make good use of the park. Being the setting is an amusement park dedicated to haunted houses, a number of slasher tropes and pretty much all the jump-scares are justified, such as no one taking notice of someone running around screaming for help or the security guard who doesn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation. There’s a section of the park, “The Deadlands”, where the stock costume is the one worn by our killer, leading to some uncertainty over whether we’re watching him or not. The park itself is designed very well and seems to be a place I would have a great time at provided a killer wasn’t stalking me.
Speaking of our killer, I liked how they handled him. It’s established pretty much off the bat that he isn’t part of our friend-group, sparing us of the oft-insufferable game of misunderstandings and suspicion. Indeed, much like the original Halloween movie, we have no insight into why kills and his targets appear to be chosen on a whim. The killer doesn’t even get a name in this movie, only being credited as “The Other.”
Overall, this movie is a definite recommend. It is a slasher movie that doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel or do anything too cheeky. It is simply a quite enjoyable film that, as some have said, is right at home among its ‘80s predecessors.