One of our favorite movies of 2018 has arrived on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital, and 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 many horror fans just like me, who will be excited to add it to their collection.
Directed by Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) and executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead), 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. (You can read my full review here.)
It’s a pretty simple story of a group of friends head who 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 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”. Reign Edwards and Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The TV Series) are also along for the ride.
Legendary genre icon Tony Todd appears all too briefly, but the film borrows liberally 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 90-minute runtime at Hell Fest, effectively presented as a glorious celebration of everything we love about haunted house attractions.
The film’s presentation on the Blu-ray we got is beautiful, with the vivid colors of the different mazes really popping at all the right times, and the surround sound makes it feel like you’re at the park.
As for the bonus features, there is little to speak of, with just the theatrical trailer and a short behind-the-scenes featurette, Thrills and Kills: Making Hell Fest, that runs around 20 minutes. If you haven’t already seen it, you definitely to watch the film before you watch the documentary, because it is loaded with spoilers, offering some interesting insight into a few of the kill scenes and a bit on the development of the killer’s all-important mask. I would have loved a writer/director commentary that could have delved much deeper into some of the inspirations of the filmmakers, but we’ll have to wait for a future Special Edition release for that.
The cover art (pictured below), featured on both the slip case and the actual cover, is a cool image of the killer, known as The Other, in front of a giant Ferris wheel, a great image to solidify the amusement park atmosphere gone chaotic (though the Ferris wheel is not used in the movie).
Like a wicked thrill ride at the world’s best haunted attraction, Hell Fest fits right in among the classic slashers of the 1980s, and at my house it will undoubtedly be added to the regular rotation of Halloween-themed favorites for many Octobers to come.
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