With the supernatural being the focus of most mainstream horror films, the slasher genre has seemingly vanished in cinemas today. Aside from the upcoming Halloween remake, most studios will not green light a slasher film today, with their grisly content often being viewed as alienating to some audiences. Trying to resurrect the once proud genre is Hell Fest, a throwback inspired by the 80’s heyday of the genre.
Perhaps inspired is the wrong word though, as very little of the film’s actual execution has much in terms of effort or originality. The film follows a group of friends who attend a horror-related theme park, which becomes far more sinister when a mysterious killer begins to pick off patrons.
Hell Fest would like its audience to believe that the film harkens to the slasher genre and its respective strengths, but its more so a pale and lifeless imitation that audiences will begin to forget as soon as they step out of the theater.
Many low-budget horror films utilize their budget to perfection, but Hell Fest can’t help but feel cheap. The theme park this film sets up is described as a horror mecca, but it looks like any rundown theme park you’ve likely seen before. The lack of irony not only in this, but the film’s generally risk-averse execution, is just one of the film’s severe problems.
Some slashers drop buckets of blood with their gory kills, yet Hell Fest by comparison, is more like a paper cut. Director Gregory Plotkin executes one or two memorably gory kills along the way, but the rest of the violence quickly becomes mundane. Several main characters die in seemingly ordinary or relatively tame ways, with Plotkin not utilizing the full capabilities of his premise.
Writing is never the greatest strength of most horror films, but boy does Hell Fest drop the ball in this department. Instead of interjecting some personality or humor into the proceedings, the script (which was somehow collaborated on by five writers) does the bare minimum of the genre. The audience is presented with a group of largely unlikable and paper-thin characters, with none of them ever developing past the most basic of archetypes. A last-second twist is inserted to give audiences a dour sense of dread, but most will likely shrug off this lazy attempt to give additional purpose to the film.
Hell Fest is as disposable as it gets, with its utter laziness leaving me shocked this film ever found a wide release.