Like a favorite roller coaster you just can’t get enough of summer after summer, the new Halloween slasher Hell Fest is destined to be mandatory annual October viewing for horror fans.
Directed by Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) and executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead), Hell Fest has been in development for years, with numerous other filmmakers previously attached at various points, but at long last the ultimate horror theme park has opened in theaters.
You have to admire a film that knows exactly what it is and delivers on its promise, and that’s where Hell Fest succeeds most. It’s a fairly simple story that you can gather from watching the trailers, as a group of friends head out to a travelling horror-themed amusement park on Halloween night, but one of the other guests is literally killing for a good time. The paying patrons of the park of course assume that the nameless masked killer is an employee of the park and that his attacks are just part of the show.
Amy Forsyth is the likable lead, Natalie, the smart girl among her group of pals, and she is the first to realize that something is not right with this particular “scare actor”. One of the best scenes is early on, when the killer and Natalie make eye contact and share an intimate moment amid the craziness around them. She basically dares him to “just do it”, before he stabs a victim to death in front of her. It’s quite a chilling scene, and from that point on, our killer only has eyes for person, and it’s Natalie, who is not into the whole Halloween holiday at all and doesn’t think park is scary. The killer wants her to be scared, and the game is on.
Reign Edwards is Natalie’s sexy, party-ready best friend Brooke, Bex Taylor-Klaus is as spunky and lovable as ever as the easily excitable Taylor.
Legendary genre icon Tony Todd appears all too briefly, but the film borrows generally from Final Destination 3 by having Todd’s unmistakable voice serve as the pre-recorded voice heard throughout all of the attractions at Hell Fest. I would have loved to have seen more of his charismatic character, but I guess I’ll have to wait for a sequel, which I would gladly welcome and be the first to line up for.
The killer is wisely left as almost entirely a mystery, using the Michael Myers playbook of random stalking to full effect, and once he locks in on Natalie, much like Myers did to Laurie Strode, he wants to scare her and enjoys doing so, a twisted trickster out having fun trick or treating on his favorite night.
The best thing about the film is that it wastes no time getting the characters physically to Hell Fest itself. Whereas many similar films might save the reveal of the park until the third act, this time we get to spend almost the entire two-hour runtime at Hell Fest, effectively presented as a glorious celebration of everything we love about haunted house attractions.
Like the kids in the movie, I recommend that you buy the ticket and take the ride for a highly entertaining Hell of a Halloween movie.
Hell Fest is in theaters now.
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