Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Hell Fest

A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show.

6 of 6 viewers "Liked" "Hell Fest" (2018, USA)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

The Impostor - "Finally a new mainstream slasher on the big screen. Most mainstream horror lately has been supernatural, based on true events and straight up remakes, so it's refreshing to see a slasher make a big screen come back. Hell Fest is a hell of a great time and I look forward to seeing again really soon. After just recently going to haunted mazes with friends, seeing the same scenario play out with the characters but they are terrorized by an actual slasher was really intense! The mazes were really well done and brought the claustrophobic atmosphere and creepy scenery to life. Jump scares you knew were coming were still effective, and would have been even better in a louder theater. While the actual slasher looked semi-basic in appearance, he was relentless and the kills gained an applause in theater. They went all the way with the kills and gore, and I am all for it! Overall perfect Halloween warm up film and a great start to bringing the slasher genre back to the mainstream. Definitely collection worthy, so go see it ASAP!" - 5 Stars

Huntress - "Not only did Hell Fest make me want to run home and put up every Halloween decoration I own, it’s also the first slasher in a long time where I didn’t actually want anyone to die. The writing is just all around good; the dialogue felt authentic, which made the relationships feel real, the scares were tense and often misleading, not cheap music queues. And as someone who shrieks her way through almost every haunt I’ve ever been in, I had a lot to be tense about in this movie, especially when the group kept getting splintered. As a slasher… I was definitely surprised by all the on-screen gore, most of which was practical. There’s enough bland PG-13 horror in the world, Hell Fest gave me that unflinching blood splatter that I thought I’d never see in a mainstream theatre again." - 5 Stars

Grey Ranger - "I don't remember seeing a slasher movie that felt so airy and carefree. It's a modest and unambitious affair, but that's part of what makes it so special. It avoids quite a few slasher cliches - in particular, its young attractive cast isn't forced to play archetypes (The Jock, The Nerd, The Soulful Loner, etc.) but are instead given the freedom to simply be young people. And they're given space to breathe, quip, hang out, bullshit, and kvetch. They're a fun bunch to hang out with, to a point that it's genuinely alarming when they start getting killed off. Set inside amusement park haunted house thrill rides, the movie gives us the cinematic equivalent - cinematographer Jose David Montero catches a vibrant array of carnival colors, and the thing visually pops in ways few horror indies try to. It's an engaging and worthwhile Halloween treat, right down to the truly unsettling coda." - 3.5 Stars

Lord Battle - "Finally a slasher that isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, challenge social taboos, or throw 5 subgenres in a blender. Hell Fest is a solid slasher. Period. Modern characters fill the classic role of sheep as the lone wolf picks them off one by one. Set against an always entertaining backdrop of a Halloween Horror Nights style haunt, Hell Fest is more traditional/less musical throwback than The Strangers: Prey At Night. I should say that I'm never a fan of my slashers/villains wearing hoodies, but from the opening kill to the closing credits there was some interesting character development for our stalker and I dug it. And just because this always comes up, Hell Fest > Blood Fest." - 4 Stars

Wandering Panda - "What a fun film! I went into Hell Fest with low expectations and I'm happy I did because it amazed me. Now a confession: I  have no SCOPE when it comes to SLASHERS and that's alright. I can offer the insight of a NON hardcore slasher fan. And I am a fan of this film. The OVERLOOK creatures recently went to Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights and I was fully immersed in Hell Fest-like mazes. And when I saw the same kind thing on screen I had to say HELL YES!! Hell Fest is memorable, colorful, and evil. I found the group like-able and quirky. The stalker was ruthless, evil and random which makes him frightening. This sets up a very fun movie. Now I have a few nitpicky complaints about this film but they're film makers choices that I appreciate more reflecting back on them. More of this please!!!" - 5 Stars

The Berkeley Blazer - "I’ve seen reviews call this film forgettable, but to demand an enduring legacy from this formula seems unnecessarily prudish and self-sabotaging.  I’m not looking to get married and have kids, I just want the slasher to flirt with me, seduce me, and maybe scare me a little.  Surprise me, baby. Hell Fest is a hell of date in the way it leads you on and pleasantly surprises you with playful alternatives, but the real centerpiece of Hell Fest is the way it ironically but effectively juxtaposes the innocent fun of a haunted house theme park with the horror of actual murder; the kills are unpleasantly sobering, and I felt in sympathy with the protagonists realizations that the proverbial shit have just gotten real. When tragedy befalls happy families in idyllic suburbs we think -at least categorically- that this contrast should be a starkly gut-wrenching situation to watch, but actually it’s the innocence of spooky fun suddenly taking a truly macabre turn that really got me when so many quaint suburb kill sprees leave me yawning. Hell Fest’s set up may be simple, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a slasher that had me excited to see who was hiding just around the bend." - 4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

In the Netflix age, most people digest a majority of their movies at home alone, aside the night's DoorDash delivery. This isn't terribly helpful when setting the stage for a horror movie about a bunch of horny kids trying to find their favorite aphrodisiac, fear. To avoid complaining about our digital era too much, I'll just say haunts are the new drive-in. Groups of kids flock to these horror attractions to get scared, drunk, and away from their parents, all while being chased by not 1, but several weapon-wielding, mask-wearing strangers. You may find yourself asking why there aren't more horror films taking advantage of this modern setting. The thing is there are a ton of films set in, around, or about haunts, the problem is these films usually use the haunts as a fix for a lack of production money and end up feeling exploitative and lazy (ahem... The Houses October Built).

Gregory Plotkin's (Paranormal Activity 5: The Ghost Dimension) Hell Fest doesn't do anything more than creating a fictional haunt that becomes a hunting ground for a slasher. The opening scene shows our killer hanging his latest victim from the ceiling next to what we earlier assumed were decorations. That single moment did what I've wanted every haunt horror to do, make us question what we are getting out of this on location scare park and wonder if we should be partaking in something which mimics death in such a way that we can't tell when our significant other is dead or a nameless prop. There is also the cleaver sprinkle of dialog indicating that the hanging room is located in a dead-end. Despite the perfect pun, anyone whose ever walked through a haunt knows there should not be a dead-end (Hell House LLC). This may imply that even the actors were bought into the killer's camouflaged lair.

- Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a Century Theatre for a preview night screening on 9/27/2018
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

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