I had zero expectations going into Hellfest and that’s not because I thought it looked like garbage, but because I had only heard about it from a few people and a few pieces of advertising. It was a Saturday and I had no obligations, so I decided to take advantage of my ability to see free movies (I managed my local theater for several years) and boy did I make the right decision.
What is Hellfest? It's a movie about a psycho killing people at a horror event similar to Halloween Horror Nights. Now that may sound overly simple and cliche, but that’s actually what makes the movie work. The creators of Hellfest kept everything simple, both in terms of story and production. The story doesn’t have a big plot twist and is fairly straightforward, so I won’t touch on that any further other than to say it justifies what happens. The production, though, is worth talking about. Nothing in the movie is overproduced. The horror event, Hellfest, looks just like something you’d see at Halloween Horror Nights - polished cheesiness. The workers in the park are wearing costumes that are a couple of pegs higher than cosplays and the haunted houses aren’t too intricate and everything inside of them look like props. That last part really adds to the movie because it gives the characters something to react to that you can see and, possibly, agree with and it also allows you to “build a relationship” with the characters.
The cheesiness of the haunted houses gave the actors something “to play with.” All of the characters act like “those people” while making their way through the haunted houses. You have an obnoxious character, a funny character, a scared character, and a neutral character. The actors deliver the lines so naturally that you can immediately recall the people you’ve seen in such a scenario. Another great thing is that the characters aren’t limited to one persona and the shifts in attitude come at the right times.
I think a part of good acting is how believable an actor reacts to a situation and the cast in Hellfest nails that. The actors all seem like they had fun making the movie and their comfortability with each other leads to natural dialogue. I think some may disagree with me on that on account of some of the lines being in filled with rhetoric fitting of our time, but it’s all stuff that people do spew out, for better or for worse.
While the movie is rated R, it’s only for language and gore and, honestly, that’s all the movie needed. The creators could have made the characters disappear behind a shed to have sex or have a pair of them hook up on a dark ride, but they didn’t and it really shows how aware the creators were of what they were working with. We don’t see such a level or awareness in movies and more often than not we get things in a “by the numbers” kind of way: if it’s a horror movie it must have sex, a naked women, etc. While there isn’t any sex, there is plenty talk of it, but not from every character (looking at you, Rob Zombie).
The movie isn’t scary, but it does employ loud noises to get a rise out of you. I’m not against such a tactic just as long as it isn’t overdone and while Hellfest does use it a lot, it makes sense given the haunted house motif. Another thing that made me look past the loud noise tactics is that the camera never leaves a tense or “scary” moment. It stays focused on the action and the suspense is often palpable.
There’s a lot of positives to Hellfest and I highly recommend watching it, especially if you’re a horror fan. The acting is great, it has a ton of suspense,and it is well made and thought out. However, the movie doesn’t do a whole lot to separate itself from other movies like it, but it’s a well made movie and that’s the most important thing.