Hell Fest (2018) – Review

I don’t know what I expected from this movie, but I was left utterly disappointed. I understand that I am not the target demographic, but I will still give my grumpy old man rant if you’ll allow it. This review does contain spoilers, but I am hopping that after reading this I can convince you to watch this.

The film starts in the past and a cheap jump scare.  Although it might be done to set the tone of the movie, it is out of place and doesn’t add to the overall narrative. The true start is with the introduction of the main character, Natalie. Natalie has flown back home for Halloween weekend to visit her best friend Brooke. It is in this introduction that you see Natalie has some deep seeded resentment towards Brooke’s roommate Taylor. It is never explored as to why Natalie doesn’t like Taylor; it is simply brushed off as one of her quirks. She has a lot of terrible quirks. She instantly forgets this resentment because in their next scene together they are the closest friends.

Through plot convenience, Brooke has scored VIP tickets for a pop-up Halloween amusement park. It is at the park that you meet the boyfriends. None of these characters are memorable and seem to be simple representations of what someone believes teens are. Most of their dialogue can be summarized with “yall gunna fuck!”. I know It is asking a lot for proper characters and character development from slasher film, but at least let me like the main characters. At this point you are 30 minutes into the movie and nothing of note has happened. A faceless killer joins the game and now the movie turns from an outing with friends to a night of survival. This is a shameless Halloween rip off, go watch that instead.

The main issue with this movie is that the concept doesn’t work. Everything is so busy that it there is no real tension. This lack of tension hurts is status as a slasher film. What is worse, most of the movie is just reaction shots as they make their way through the many haunted mazes. They aren’t even well done nor are they fun to watch. This makes up so much of the movie that I honestly would have forgotten about the killer if Natalie wasn’t constantly reminding me. The plot to this movie is so weak that it wouldn’t exist had Natalie been sensible and left the park. The killer gives her ample opportunity to leave, but this movie wouldn’t happen if Natalie was sensible. She chooses too late to call the police. If she honestly felt in danger and threatned, she could have left, called the police, asked for a refund and we wouldn’t have to sit through this.

This park is also the void of safety. I have been to enough festivals to understand that this was not a very well-run from how much effort was put into its production. Had this been some sketchy fair, these issues could be easily ignored. But this place looks expensive, and nothing this expensive should have this many safety violations. There are no safety measures put in place to get the people out safely during a crisis. There are no clear signs that point to a clear exit. There is no medical staff or tents. There is also only one security guard in this whole place. They don’t even turn on the lights when they close the park to help people safely evacuate. This park wouldn’t have been approved for the public. Ignoring all of that, this is a park that should have been shut down the first-time people were murdered there. I am confident there should have been enough buzz around to shut it down the second or third time this happened. At the very least, there should have been a lot more preventative measures.

The killer is also a huge problem. This is a killer that pops up when it is convenient. The rest of the time, you are watching a bunch of drunks running around an amusement park. When he does show up, he exhibits inhuman powers. He teleports to cut off the group. He is able to keep close with a group of drunk college kids at popular festival, even skipping lines to pop up when the script calls for him. Anyone who has gone to a popular festival can tell you how easily you can lose your group, but somehow he is able to cut them off at every single turn. He is even able to disappear to avoid capture. This wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t so massive and slow. Even with this mass, he has no presence in the movie. I’ll say it again, I completely forgot he was the villain because he barely does anything.

My biggest issue with the movie is Natalie. The film attempts to create a deep character, but she ends up just as shallow, forgettable, and annoying as her friends. They give her a love interest who she clearly has no chemistry with. They kill him off instantly and no one even knows that he is dead, making this death pointless. You can argue that his death was used so he can get the phone and track the teens through the park, but that is a dumb plot device because it stops working when they really need it. But, this relationship is a huge part of her character and seems to be the only thing defining her. Having a relationship with the opposite sex is not a character trait and I hate that this movie made it one. For once I want to see a movie where the female protagonist existence doesn’t revolve around being swooned. Because of this trait, you get to watch one the most boring dates ever.

It is on this bad date that they allude to her vague and sad back story. This sad story is forgotten almost instantly. This movie does that a lot. Why do all main characters in these movies always have a sad back story? Just once I would like to see a character who is happy with her life. Bad shit happens to happy people too. But then it wouldn’t be very Hollywood and this essay would be a lot shorter. In this case, it doesn’t add anything to her character. In fact, most character development is established through lazy exposition. If they wanted to give her a sad back story, they could have had her have an argument with one of her parents over the phone. After this phone call, they could have had one of her friends console her and establish depth in that conversation instead of randomly inserting it as dialogue. This would have shown the audience she has trouble at home but also show a deeper relationship between the group. But this isn’t a better movie and you just get this shallow copy of something you would rather be watching.

In closing, you should probably skip this one. There isn’t enough substance for a full movie, even if they try bait an entire series. I don’t see this movie aging well, nor do I see any of their sequels or prequels coming to theaters. It is not an original concept, nor is it a good execution of it.

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