Summary: A masked maniac stalks a group of college students at a Halloween amusement park.
Review: Hell Fest is plainly up-front about its throwback-slasher aspirations, complete with a sexy young cast, a silent masked murderer, and an anemic story. Our group of nubile kids du jour is headed up by Natalie (Amy Forsyth), an unassuming goody-goody who may as well have “Final Girl” tattooed on her forehead. Also along for the shenanigans are Natalie’s BFF Brooke (Reign Edwards), gung-ho horror fan Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus, giving the movie’s only memorable performance), and three hunky love interests not worth naming. When the crew arrives at the titular theme park, Natalie begins to suspect one of the costumed ‘killers’ of being the real deal, to the disbelief of her friends. But when the hooded figure starts picking off the characters in order of how many lines they’re given, Natalie and the others must fight to escape with their lives.
As the name implies, the real star of Hell Fest is the park itself, whose macabre stylings and aggressive troupe of actors will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever visited such a place. But this turns out to be a double-edged sword, as it creates the problem of the movie being about something fun without being fun itself. Going to a haunted amusement park? A blast. Watching people go to a haunted amusement park? Not so much. Had the movie been better-paced, this might have not been an issue, but we’re forced to spend a good half-hour watching our protagonists wait in line, go on rides, and get their pictures taken before any of them get killed; and they aren’t good enough company to make these scenes anything more than a slog. Things liven up a bit when the murderer makes his inevitable entrance, but the movie never uses him and his unique setting as cleverly as it should.
Hell Fest isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s an aggressively forgettable one. Even the most nascent of horror fans will be able to predict the plot’s by-the-numbers proceedings, but this overfamiliarity isn’t what kills the movie. I’ve always believed that even the most generic of movie set-ups can sing with the right execution, and this goes double for the horror genre. But there’s so little meat on Hell Fest’s already brittle bones that it becomes impossible to recommend. It’s entirely outshined by the movies it’s mimicking, themselves hardly masterworks of cinema but guilty pleasures that knew how to entertain. Hell Fest offers almost none of the thrills of those movies; its kills are bland and not nearly gory enough, its characters are cyphers instead of larger-than-life types, and it deprives the audience of the leading lady vs. killer showdown they’re all expecting. A brief coda adds a bit of unexpected spice, but it’s far too little too late.
The Verdict: Hell Fest offers the minimum requirement of horror movie competence, but little else. I give it four midway madmen out of ten.