‘Fun going in. Hell getting out.’
Hell Fest is a 2018 American slasher horror feature film directed by Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension; editor of Get Out and Happy Death Day; et al) from a screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood (Leatherface), Gary Dauberman (The Nun; IT; Annabelle) and Blair Butler. It was produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead; Aliens; The Terminator).
The Valhalla Motion Pictures production stars Amy Forsyth (Channel Zero), Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream), Christian James, Roby Attal, Matt Mercurio (Sleepy Hollow), and genre icon Tony Todd (West of Hell; Final Destination; Candyman; et al).
Lionsgate released Hell Fest digitally on December 21 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on January 8, 2019. Special features:
- Thrills and Kills: Making Hell Fest featurette
- Theatrical trailer
College student Natalie (Amy Forsyth) is visiting her childhood best friend Brooke (Reign Edwards) and her roommate Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). If it was any other time of year these three and their boyfriends might be heading to a concert or bar, but it is Halloween which means that like everyone else they will be bound for Hell Fest – a sprawling labyrinth of rides, games, and mazes that travels the country and happens to be in town. Every year thousands follow Hell Fest to experience fear at the ghoulish carnival of nightmares.
However, for one visitor, Hell Fest is not the attraction – it is a hunting ground. An opportunity to slay in plain view of a gawking audience, too caught up in the terrifyingly fun atmosphere to recognise the horrific reality playing out before their eyes. As the body count and frenzied excitement of the crowds continues to rise, he turns his masked face to Natalie, Brooke, Taylor, and their boyfriends who will fight to survive the night.
Hell Fest looks great. The sets and lighting are fantastic, with green, red, and electric blue deep definition galore. Unfortunately, the characters and plot are so painfully one-dimensional, any visual appeal is out-weighted by the audience having to suffer the petty tribulations that unfold onscreen before them. This is perhaps standard for many horror movies and yet it grates more so here.
In an otherwise uninteresting cast, Bex Taylor-Klaus stands out as a spunky character named Taylor who is almost beheaded at the behest of Tony Todd (who cameos as a master of ceremonies) but everyone else, including the killer just blends into the brightly coloured background, and is unmemorable. It’s almost guaranteed that five minutes after seeing Hell Fest most people will have forgotten everything about it.
Ironically, it’s the equivalent of the vapid horror scare show that forms its setting. Experienced in person, a horror show might be fun. Sat in a cinema watching other people going through the paces, hunted by a serial killer who also lacks definition, it’s a chore. And that’s a pity, as Hell Fest as a concept showed promise.
Adrian J Smith, MOV!ES and MAN!A
“Because there are no complicated subplots or confusing tangents, because the movie revels in the devilish details of its main Hell Fest attractions first and foremost, we stay inside the park the whole time in a very focused and straight-forward manner. This allows Plotkin to get away with the one-note plot line…” Arrow in the Head
“The set design is off the charts and features a massive array of unique, colorful, and scary mazes that look as authentic as the one in your town […] The biggest struggle for Hell Fest is the fine line between being fun and violent, which ends up being a constant pull back and forth, just barely keeping its balance.” Bloody Disgusting
“Hell Fest staffs itself with cursory personalities who gently coast primarily on photogenic appeal. About the best thing to be said for the protagonists is that they are good enough for basic B-movie work, although you’re barking up a bare tree if you expect a third dimension to anyone’s depth.” Culture Crypt
“Hell Fest is really good at using the old horror tricks and twists, you know and love. And all the “dumb” tropes are here as well. The masked killer will walk when everyone else is running. But he still catches up to them. However, it was a pleasant surprise that some old tropes were flipped.” Heaven of Horror
“Hell Fest isn’t bad through and through. Plotkin has a decent hand on the camera, directing a film that manages to overcome its clearly meagre budget. With its bright colors and deep shadows, it all looks pretty slick and suitable enough for a blood bath. No, Hell Fest’s main problem is that it’s more of a Snooze Fest.” Horror News
” …borrows heavily from the indie Halloween hit The House That October Built which is set against haunted house attractions and the recent obsession with extreme haunts. I was not a fan of that film and Hell Fest was just mind numbingly boring. You can see the scares coming a mile away and the story is nothing we haven’t seen before.” Horror Society
“With the right director Hell Fest could almost (and I mean almost) have been a gloomy masterpiece along the lines of some of the weirder Italian gialli (the sets certainly have the iconography lying around to augment that). Instead, Hell Fest is just all right, something for the undemanding horror fan who hasn’t seen this all before.” John Llewellyn Probert, House of Mortal Cinema
“Hell Fest has exactly one genuinely nail-biting scene…. Otherwise, the movie does little to update, subvert, or comment on the trappings of classic thrillers like The Funhouse and Halloween.” Los Angeles Times
“The killings aren’t particularly gripping, there’s little suspense in the earliest ones and the menace is pretty watered down for much of the movie. There are two pretty tight sequences though — one involves a guillotine and an MC played by horror legend Tony Todd (“Candyman”). The other doesn’t.” Movie Nation
“While the film takes the kids on an operatic journey, with each horror maze more intense than the last, leading up to an intense crescendo of sorts, it lacks a heroic moment. You expect the lead (Amy Forsyth) to be scared and vulnerable, to go through an ordeal, and be awakened as a kick-ass bitch that fights back. However, the film never gets there.” Nerd Bastards
“The scares of Hell Fest never leave a mark, and it’s gore-lite in a weird way that makes it seem like a self-serious light-R that forgot to have fun (the relatively tame language and selective gore makes one think it used to have PG-13 aspirations). But the concept has so much potential, it’s a bummer it plays out so mechanically.” RogerEbert.com
“Hell Fest is moderately gory, yet its best deaths (while not particularly memorable) are in the middle, with the climactic Final Girl(s) action a bit flat. When the film should be at its most pulse-pounding, it’s already past its mild peak of tension.” Variety
“Plotkin directed what most consider the worst Paranormal Activity movie Ghost Dimension. His second feature is written by a team of writers in a highly uninspired script. It’s not that Hell Fest is bad, it’s a typical slasher that horror fans will mostly enjoy. We’ve just seen so many versions of it before. Many of which are better.” Without Your Head
Cast and characters:
- Reign Edwards … Brooke
- Bex Taylor-Klaus … Taylor
- Tony Todd
- Amy Forsyth … Natalie
- Michael Tourek … Security Guard
- Courtney Dietz … Britney
- Christian James … Quinn
- Matt Mercurio … Asher
- Elle Graham … Little Girl
- Benjamin Weaver … Hellfest Halloween Park Goer
- Mason Pike … Shaved Ice Vendor
- Roby Attal … Gavin
- Taylor Brooke Jaye Taylor … Cop
- Stephen Conroy … The Other
- Markus Silbiger … Carney Kid
Hell Fest was released in the UK on 16 November 2018.