The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Hell Fest

If you like Halloween, amusement park spook houses, and haunted hayrides, Hell Fest is the movie for you. This slasher, which feels like a throwback to '80s chillers such as Hell Night and Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, hits the sweet spot in mixing bloody horror with a subtle sense of humor. In many respects, it's a celebration of how fun and playful horror can be.

The story follows three young women -- Natalie (Amy Forsyth), Brooke (Reign Edwards), and Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) -- who go with their respective boyfriends to a horror-themed amusement park for "Hell Fest." It has several haunted mazes and a creepy ride. Actors in costume are everywhere, doing all they can to scare the patrons. A masked psycho is among them, and he begins picking our gang off one by one. They try to get help, but since the whole place is designed to be scary, the other patrons assume the creepy goings-on are just part of the show.

That's an amazing twist, one Hell Fest has a great time indulging in. Some of the harmless employees have the same mask as the killer, so there are moments where Natalie and friends aren't entirely sure who's after them and who isn't. There's the additional matter of them not really knowing whether any of the extra masked figures are similarly murderous. Everything is a big guessing game. Suspense is created as they try to figure out which direction danger is coming from.

Every worthwhile slasher has to have great "kills" -- manners in which characters meet their ends. Hell Fest has very ingenious kills. The first one, involving one of those strength tester games with the hammer and the bell is particularly wild. Doing this kind of thing is tricky. Films must be graphic enough to be creepy but not so explicit as to revolt the audience. Director Gregory Plotkin gets that balance just about right.

Perhaps the best thing about Hell Fest is its set design. The various mazes and locales the characters go through look like they would be a blast. Each one is spookier than the one before. Cumulatively, they add up to the most awesome Halloween destination imaginable. You may find yourself wishing that you could actually attend Hell Fest -- aside from the part where a killer is looming, of course.

Perhaps needless to say, there's no real substance here. The picture aims to be nothing more than a cool, thrilling slasher flick, and that's exactly what it is. With a likable cast and a fictional location you want to immerse yourself in, Hell Fest delivers a rousing good time, especially for viewers who appreciate the showmanship of horror.

( out of four)

Hell Fest is rated R for horror violence, and language including some sexual references . The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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