+ Recommended – R, Horror

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No, this has nothing to do with a movie we reviewed back in August, Blood Fest (2018). While there are striking similarities in plot, there’s enough to differentiate the two slasher flicks from each other. And there is a clear victor when it comes to the better slasher movie; Hell Fest. With constant tension, little-to-no jump scares, and beautiful cinematography, Hell Fest will quench your thirst for more horror before October festivities officially begin.

A group of college kids make the trip to a traveling horror theme park during their fall break (or around). Natalie (Amy Forsyth) notices a stalker that has been following the group around the park since they arrived, but isn’t necessarily sure whether or not what she’s seen is real. Even after people begin to get picked off, Amy and her friends still remain unclear on the entire situation. Is it all part of the amusement park? Or is this masked figure actually killing people left and right?

As where Blood Fest filled the gap for a fun, horror B-movie with attempted high-level concepts and exhaustive plot threads, Hell Fest provides an extra layer of seriousness while removing extra storytelling fluff. It’s simply a guy running around in a mask axing students off as they try to determine the difference between reality and the horror show. Here, we are exposed to what makes great horror scarier than an average horror flick: does this killer even have a motive? Without spoiling anything, the killer doesn’t appear to have any semblance of reason for his/her actions. It’s not an integral part of the plot.

Hell-Fest-Cast

Still from Hell Fest

These characters prove that, even still, it’s apparently uber difficult to make any character better than a typical, trope-ridden horror cliché. No one really stands apart, other than maybe Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Gavin (Roby Attal). But one strength that emerges from the lack of development is the simplicity of the story. It’s not bogged down by unnecessary exposition for someone who’s going to die shortly after their key monologue. As far as the actual dialogue, the edits were a bit choppy and, at times, the dialogue was teetering on full cringe. It wasn’t awful enough to distract you from the intensity of the situation or strip away any connection you had to the characters, though.

Slasher’s, in my opinion, rely just as much on the mask, or the outfit of the killer, as they do on story and characters. This mask was provided by Alterian, Inc., who also was responsible for creating the Scream and Happy Death Day mask. It’s very simple, but effective in providing a particularly unsettling, creepy look. And let me be the first to tell you, the amusement park is just as much of a character as Natalie. Director Gregory Plotkin, who edited Get Out, ensures that the park feels genuine by hiring real theme park scarers and through practical sets. This is one haunted house I would love to go to this year, minus the waivers, of course.

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Still from Hell Fest

Hell Fest won’t be an iconic slasher flick, but, they do have a promising concept here. It was competently shot, directed, and acted and thus, isn’t nearly as awful as The Nun. Sonically, the film score resembles that of Scream, with Bear McCreary offering his composing talents that work well with the overall tone and direction of the movie. If you’re looking for something to fill your weekend with as we reach Halloween time, might I offer you an admission into Hell Fest? Plus you don’t want to miss any Tony Todd cameo, do you?

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