Cast: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Christian James
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: 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. College student NATALIE (Forsyth) is visiting her childhood best friend BROOKE (Edwards) and her roommate TAYLOR (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. But 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 recognize 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.
You know that a studio does not have a lot of faith in a low-budget horror movie when they decide that it will be released in September instead of October where it would undoubtedly make more money. Hell Fest is a prime example of a studio dumping a project in no-man’s land and just cutting their losses with it completely. There have been some really bad horror releases this year, and Hell Fest is down there with the worst of the worst. Fueled by two-dimensional characters, a completely by-the-books plotline, and an antagonist who provides nothing original, Hell Fest feels as though its existence is just to suck up as much money as it can and then peel out of theatres without anyone remembering a thing about it.
The film follows Natalie (Forsyth), who comes back to town to visit her old friend Brooke (Edwards). As a surprise, Brooke got her group of friends tickets to Hell Fest, a traveling amusement park that is known for a girl being murdered in the park. What these friends do not know is that the killer is coming back to the park to continue his murderous ways, and he has his sights set on Natalie and her friends. One of the things that truly bothered me about this movie was just how underdeveloped and unlikable the characters are. In Natalie’s first scene, the movie tries to establish that she has been away from Brooke from an extended period of time and that Natalie has a problem with Brooke’s roommate Taylor (Taylor-Klaus). At no point in the film do we figure out; why Natalie has come back, how long has she been away, and why does she have a problem with Taylor. The characters are explained to us instead of shown to us and this is a massive issue with the character’s development. This lack of detail seeps into the supporting characters, as they seem to be nothing more than your standard archetypes from every horror movie ever and are provided no depth at all. Moving on to the actual plot of the film, at no point did I find this movie particularly scary. It follows the same cookie-cutter rules that have been laid out from horror movies of the past and does not take any risks at all. The killer himself does nothing that is either creative or original, and completely fails to capture the creepy vibe that the movie sets out for. Humming, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” is not as scary as this movie thinks it should be, and at times it comes across as borderline funny. Add onto this some horrific sequel-bait at the end of the film that desperately tries to connect a quote from a beginning of the film to the end had my eyes rolling and really sums up exactly what is wrong with this movie from beginning to end. While there is one scene in particular that broke this boring mold for all of 15 seconds, it was not enough to overcome the massive issues this movie faced with a first-time director at the helm and inexperienced actors on-screen.
Overall, I did not have super high expectations going into Hell Fest, but it failed to meet even those meager demands. This movie has a very interesting premise and I think if handled by some more experienced professionals, there is a chance we could have gotten a solid movie out if this. Instead, we get your typical, B-level horror movie that is more boring than scary and that few will remember after they leave the theatre.
Overall Score: 2.5/10