When walking through one of those Six Flags Fright Fest Haunted Houses/Mazes looks better and is scarier than the shit show that is HELL FEST, you know your film has a problem. Hell Fest is a giant step backward in the slasher genre, which honestly could be redeemed and saved in a couple of weeks when the “true sequel” to the original Halloween comes out. This is direct to video schlock at best. How it even managed to get a theatrical release I will never know. Now to be fair, the movie does three things right, but it does about a thousand wrong. And in order to explain why this movie doesn’t work, I have no choice other than to spoil basically the entire movie. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, just know that this slasher movie sucks, isn’t scary, the production design is awful, the kills are not that interesting, there is absolutely no character development, it is mostly bloodless, and the blood we do get is CGI splotches. If I had went to that traveling horror maze road show in real life, I would’ve asked for my money back.
***major spoilers from here on***
Okay, let’s dive in. I want to first start out by describing what the 3 things the film does right:
1. The movie isn’t a mystery who dun it. Don’t start suspecting any of the friends, because it reveals very early that this guy is just a murdering wanderer. We never see the killer’s face throughout the whole film. He is an unknown deadly faceless psychopath, and that makes him more menacing in scarier. Even though his mask looks like the mask from Scream, and Michael Myer’s mask from Halloween, fucked, had a baby, and then that baby was set on fire, I loved that they never reveal who exactly he is, even though they give you a tiny little hint at the end of the movie that made him even scarier.
2. The first death of our core friend group was actually a bit surprising. Once all the friends get together in the film, I had it picked out in my mind which would go first and then so on. Surely the female leads possible love interest would survive the film or up until the very very end trying to save her? Nope, he is the first one offed with a giant hammer you use on those strength test games. At that point I was starting to get into the movie, but then unfortunately my list went back in order, the killer ends up just killing two of the friends in a matter of seconds with knife blows with CGI blood and then the third and the first person end up surviving, when I had predicted all three would. Man, if the film would’ve subverted expectations and really fucked up that order, that would’ve been a lot of fun, instead it shocks you, but then seems satisfied and it is business as normal.
3. The guillotine scene. If you’ve seen the trailers you know that Bex Taylor-Klaus looks like she is going to be killed where she is set to get her head chopped off by a guillotine. The scene goes the way you think it will, but then it doesn’t (basically, it is confirmed to be a fake out with a fake head, part of the show, the curtains are closed, they are alone, the killer actually tried to chop her head off, but the blade isn’t sharp enough, so it hardly goes through , but she manages to escape). I thought that subverting of expectations was good, but then the killer kills her and another part of the group in a matter of seconds about 30 seconds later, so everything goes to shit.
See how all three praises are basically back handed compliments? That’s basically what the movie did the entire time, it set you up thinking it was going to be a smarter film than it actually should be, but then kick you in the balls, says fuck you, and does the cliche anyway. The climax is basically just a chase scene through a maze (called Hell, pffft) that is supposed to be one of the scariest walking haunted houses/mazes in the entire country but is actually the dullest thing I’ve ever seen. Six Flags always does it better. There is no tension, and every cliche imaginable is thrown at you. There is a couple of instances where the movie is extremely utterly unbelievably ridiculous. After the main girl’s love interest is killed, the killer takes his phone and is posing as him for a bit. She is texting him in the bathroom (after he hasn’t been seen by them for an unbelievably laughable period of time), and then his phone of course pings in the bathroom and the killer starts attacking her. She tries to call for help immediately but the phone says her call to 911 failed and no signal. Really? After she was just texting her love interest with no problem two seconds earlier? Fucking please.
Also, this whole maze is supposed to look and feel real, even though there aren’t really supposed to be major weapons that can hurt or kill people in the park. The guillotine blade would’ve been completely fake in a real park and the fact that it is real, but just dull and only cuts through a little bit of Bex Taylor-Klaus next was unbelievably unrealistic, it would’ve just bounced off. In the climatic scene, the main girl and her main girl best friend are searching for weapons in the maze but can’t find really anything to slash or stab the killer with, but the killer managers to pull a real sharp ax out of one the dummies in the maze…fucking PLEASE. Oh, and at one point in the movie they are taking shots with those you know drink shot things that look like syringes, but the killer manager to find a real syringe with a really sharp needle just lying somewhere behind the scenes. Yeah…RIGHT. I forgot to mention the girls do manage to find like a big fake bone and a long torch thing, and hit the killer with it. In a real thing like that, those most likely would’ve been foam and fake. Trust me, I know, I’ve been to these things earlier and my life and everything is fake so you don’t get hurt. The movie took wayyyy too many liberties.
The movie hangs on the premise that it would be easier to randomly kill people in a place like this and people would just think it is part of the show, but the movie doesn’t really execute or rather say go with that premise very well. The film only a couple of times kills somebody right in front of somebody or leaves a body on a stack of dead bodies, but the movie doesn’t hone in on where it should. If it would’ve had more focus, it could’ve been a lot more clever. The movie makes the fatal mistake of trying to scare you on the screen by a third of the time just watching these characters go through these mazes and they themselves being scared by carnival cheap ass jump scares. Yeah, that doesn’t work. Everything in it looks like the cheapest ass traveling horror road show I have ever seen. Again, this movie should never have been released into theaters. I’m quite curious to watch this other movie called Blood Fest that was released into theater for a day, and then is available to rent or buy like several weeks after ward. It kind of deals with the whole festival thing too, but it got better reviews, and I’m curious to see if the execution is better. But hey you know what? Since the film paused several times in the climax because of technical difficulties, this movie ended up being free anyway. So there’s that…