Hell Fest (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

2018 has been marked with notably bad horror movies including Winchester, Truth or Dare, and – worst of all – Slender Man. Hell Fest doesn’t do a great job of undoing the trend, but it was more competently told than many of the others have been thus far. Still, there were many missteps and over-acting that made the film much more laughable than scary.

Hell Fest wasn’t a great movie, but it would be an awesome ride

Natalie (Amy Forsyth) surprises her best friend Brooke (Reign Edwards) and Brooke’s roommate Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) by showing up for a weekend hangout. There isn’t really an explanation as to why she came, but everyone sure does talk about how shocking it is that Natalie arrived, and Natalie keeps apologizing throughout the film for her being too distracted and distant. One may assume she came to join Brooke, Taylor, and the three guys on their journey to Hell Fest, but Natalie doesn’t learn about that plan until her arrival.

Of course, the big plot twist of the film is that a couple of years before our heroes venture into Hell Fest,  a real murder took place at the traveling horror night. This fact is thrown around as an urban legend – despite their intimate knowledge of the actual case – but they think it only makes the night cooler. It’s not long before Gregory Plotkin introduces us to the killer via a tracking shot that follows a man from behind as he goes through security. We never see his face until he puts on a mask, and we see him begin to stalk his first victim. Natalie, thinking the murder is part of the maze they’re in, witnesses the killing, leading the bad guy to set his sights on her.

The premise is a scary one. In a place where there are tons of fake dead bodies and tons of “weapons” with alcohol-fueled people looking to be scared, a real psycho turns himself loose. I’ve frequented horror mazes over the last fifteen years or so, and this idea had occurred to me a few times. Yet, the execution of this film – plus the fairly boring ways in which many of the kills are executed – is weak. The jump scares are infrequent, the tension is vanilla, and the characters are a bit obnoxious.

Taylor is an especially annoying character. She treats the haunted houses as jokes and is constantly overselling everything. It wasn’t a bad performance per se, but it’s also one that doesn’t make the film enjoyable. The film is full of weak dialogue that doesn’t give the audience any real information. Natalie is constantly apologizing and saying she needs to do more things, but there is never any context or reason for any of it. Even a few little things that are clearly hints being given that a character will surely use later in the film are almost inconsequential…which is precisely what is ultimately wrong the movie – nothing really matters.

Final thoughts…

Hell Fest is definitely skippable. It’s another waste of a good premise ruined by a mediocre script. The film does seem to think there is a possibility for a sequel, but I wouldn’t bet on one – at least not with a theatrical run. Hell Fest earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.

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