Halloween is the season for even the stuffiest people to let their inner monster out. It is also the season for horror movies and trick or treating. Hell Fest is definitely the movie to watch this Halloween season. I can think of no better way to kick off the Halloween season than with a celebration of frights and friendships — oh, and bloody murders. Razor sharp, with a cast of characters so likable you’ll hope they all survive, Hell Fest is a giddy and almost euphoric horror experience.
Hell fest is about a group of college buddies that are headed to the titular haunted park to have some fun and get terrified. They get both, but not in the doses they’d ideally measure out due to rumors of a masked killer sneaking into haunted attractions. Once inside, he creates a terror that is all too real, protected by the spirit of the season and a collection of realistic props. The film’s premise is a clever one, drawing parallels between viewers and the group, all strapped in for the art of the scare. But we know something they don’t, and the idea of blood lust and spectatorship sneaks into the narrative, without beating a dead corpse.
Set in a haunted park, Hell Fest has twice the jump-scares of your average slasher, yet director Gregory Plotkin does something smart. Within the world of the characters, the sound is realistic, coated with killer cackles, and loud spring-loaded contraptions. The character’s scream, and they laugh. He contrasts this with moments of real fear for the group, where the sound becomes more expressionistic; background noises fade — or are accentuated to represent sensory overload — and aural tingling’s of terror overtake the atmosphere. The score shrieks or whimpers to silence, and we are enveloped in terror.
A scene of tension assembled around a photo-booth is a summation of Hell Fest’s impact: what starts as a cute development of romance between two characters shifts to an unnerving panic, with the act of their passion now the hindrance to their safety. As they kiss, the killer approaches. They are unknowing, and yet we know, so we are caught between egging on the bloodshed and worried for our friends. The score builds as the crosscutting intensifies, but at this stage, we are only teased their fates, and left with a relieved sigh. Fun tips toward fear without losing tempo, and the lexis of Hell Fest — the memorable score, crosscutting, and misdirection — mirrors the film’s narrative trajectory of ramping intensity and genre play. Complicating our relationship to slashers while still delivering the goods, one thing is certain: Hell Fest is the park to be in after dark.
Hell fest is the movie to watch this Halloween season for sure!