All slash, no scare

Just another junk horror flick

Starring Amy Forsyth. Directed by Gregory Plotkin. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas. Rated R.
Rated 1.0

Halloween is approaching; cue the crap horror films. At least Hell Fest isn’t another Saw movie. With the arrival of Jigsaw last year, I thought we would be blasted with that series of films again, but thankfully it did not start a trend (yet). Unfortunately, Hell Fest sucks, too.

Natalie (Amy Forsyth) joins some friends for an evening of terror as they visit an amusement park full of haunted houses, death mazes and masked cast members running around with a mandate to scare the shit out of them. Walking among the paid crew in a mask and a hoodie similar to many other characters in the park is an anonymous man who isn’t going for make-believe. He likes to really kill people with ice picks, mallets, guillotines, syringes and standard-issue knives.

Much of the action takes place in the dark, with flashing strobe lights, shades of red and stock horror sound effects—so, there’s a pretty good reason why none of this is scary. Plus, director Gregory Plotkin and crew filmed it in a way that renders the locales flat, cheap-looking and stagey, just like your average amusement park haunted house. Maybe in real life this stuff would be a little scary, but sitting in a movie theater watching folks enter these themed rooms is not.

Hell Fest has almost zero mystery in that we see the killer before the melee, passing through an entrance gate with his back to the camera as he puts on a mask and picks up a weapon. Everyone in Natalie’s group is present and accounted for when this happens, so no need to strain trying to determine who among them might be the killer.

Forsyth actually has the makings of an interesting performer, so it’s sort of sad watching her slog through this. Of course, the group of friends includes a chipper punk-rock girl, Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). She’s “the funny one” who’s more annoying than actually funny. She, along with many of the other players, is just cannon fodder for the killer. None of them stands out as more than just a stereotype.

A somewhat scary prospect in the film’s premise that is never fully realized is the killer putting the dead folks on display in the horror-themed park. This happens once near the beginning, but otherwise we hear about the killer and his victims only on newscasts after the fact. Another missed opportunity for real frights

I hope the revamped Halloween coming later this month packs more of a scary wallop than Hell Fest. This is conveyer-belt horror at its worst, with a lame cliffhanger ending that suggests there will be a lame sequel. If you are looking for a real fright this Halloween, you are probably better off going to the makeshift haunted house in your neighbor’s garage.