Brief synopsis: Natalie goes to meet up with her best friend from high school, Brooke, having been away at college. Another old high school colleague, Taylor, is living with Brooke. The three young women, plus their partners and would-be partners, go to Hell Fest, a horror-themed amusement park.
At the park, Natalie sees one of the patrons get killed by a masked man, who she and the rest of the group thought was one of the park’s actors. When the same masked man begins to stalk them, the group realise that their lives are in danger.
Is it any good?: It is not bad, though neither is it good. Not really for horror aficionados, but for those who enjoy a mild scare with a straightforward, madman-after-frightened-teens vibe, reminiscent of the early nineties, one could definitely do worse than Hell Fest.
Spoiler territory: A travelling theme park, Hell Fest, moves around North America during the Halloween season. When visiting Orange Grove, a group of three young women visits one of the attractions. When one of the women gets separated from the group, she finds herself confronted by a masked man known as The Other (Stephen Conroy).
She recognises him from earlier in the evening. He had been following her. He stabs her to death and hangs her up amongst the fake corpses in the house of horrors.
Some years have passed and Natalie (Amy Forsyth), is visiting her best friend from high school, Brooke (Reign Edwards). Living with Brooke is Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). Taylor, an old classmate of both the girls, is not someone who Natalie is overly excited to see.
Taylor ribs Natalie for being so uptight. Natalie points out that, as she is on a scholarship, she needs to maintain her grades. Taylor insists that October, the month they are in, is for fun and that they are going to have fun that coming night, especially as Gavin (Roby Attal), a young man who has a crush on Natalie, is coming out with them.
Brooke tells Natalie about Hell Fest, the travelling theme park, and how Gavin has gotten them all VIP tickets for it. Natalie is not sure. Brooke tells her that Gavin is itching to see her. Brooke’s boyfriend, Quinn (Christian James), comes into the room. He ready to go to Hell Fest.
The girls, along with Quinn, go to Hell Fest. Inside the park, they meet up with Gavin and Asher (Matt Mercurio), Taylor’s boyfriend. Gavin and Natalie quickly get together. The group starts drinking and decides to go to the Deadlands, a part of the theme park that is meant to be one of the scarier parts because the actors can and do touch people.
To get to the scariest part, Hell, they have to go through Deadlands. The group persuades Natalie to go into the Deadlands. The Other comes into the theme park. He spots a girl and decides that she is going to be his first victim. He steals an ice pick from one of the vendors in the park and follows her.
The group make their way to the Deadlands, getting scared witless by actors along the way. They go into one of the many haunted houses that populate the park. The girls and the boys split into two groups. As the girls walk through the house, Natalie works out the timings of the scares. The girl that The Other decided to pursue comes running into the house.
She is petrified and hides under a table. The girls think that it is all an act, Natalie even pointing out where the girl is hiding when The Other stands in front of her with the ice pick. He goes and grabs the girl. Taylor and Brooke leave, not liking the act. Natalie watches the girl struggling and, still believing it all to be part of the show, tells The Other to hurry up and kill her.
He stabs the girl killing her. Natalie is unsure of what she has witnessed and leaves the house. Outside, back with the other girls, The Other watches her. He indicates to her not to tell anyone.
They meet up with the boys again. Natalie sees The Other watching from another part of the park. She says that he is following them, but the rest of the group assures her it is just an actor being over-zealous.
Gavin tries to win a toy for Natalie but is absolutely terrible at every game, failing miserably. Gavin and Natalie hang out together, chatting and bonding over a pretzel. They go into a photo booth and take photos and kiss. Whilst they are in the booth, The Other comes and steals the photos. Brooke sees him and tries to stop him, chasing after him but he disappears.
The group is now determined to head into Deadlands. Gavin tells them to go ahead. Natalie is reluctant, but he assures her that he will catch up. He tells Quinn he wants to get her a toy. He goes back to the vendor where he tried to win the toy, but the guy working there does not want to help him as it would jeopardise his job.
Back at the entrance to Deadlands, the rest of the group are signing waivers. Natalie asks why they have to sign a waiver. Taylor explains it is because the actors can touch people. Gavin, still trying to get a toy for Natalie, sees an employee leaving a room laden with the toys. He sneaks into the room to get a toy. In the room, he is confronted by The Other.
Gavin thinks it is just the actor trying to scare him again. He asks him for the photos. The Other stays silent. Gavin goes to walk away and is tripped up by him. The Other hits him with a mallet. As Gavin tries to get his breath, The Other smashes his head with the mallet, killing him.
The rest of the group go into the Deadlands. The way into the Deadlands is by a train ride through another haunted house. In the house they stop the cars, making the patrons believe there is a fault.
An actor with the same mask as The Other gets into Natalie’s car. She is freaking out, screaming, and then they exit the house. They are in the Deadlands. Natalie sees several actors in the same mask as The Other.
Natalie wants to wait for Gavin. Asher tells her that he went to try and get her a toy but as he is so awful at all the games, he would probably be a while. The boys and girls split up again, going into different houses. The boys get separated and Asher is left in the house. Natalie sees The Other watching her behind plexiglass.
Asher tries to find his way out of the house and is caught by The Other. He gets stabbed through the eye and killed. Natalie goes to the bathroom and texts Gavin. She hears the message ping in the bathroom. Underneath the stall, she sees The Other’s boots. She escapes from the bathroom and calls security but cannot convince them that there is an issue.
Brooke and Natalie go to Quinn. Brooke tells him that they have to leave. He tells her that Taylor has decided to volunteer for one of the acts. Up on the stage, Taylor is sentenced to death for committing sins.
Natalie notices that the executioner has on the same shoes as The Other and tries to stop the act. She is restrained by security. The act goes ahead, Taylor pretending to lose her head.
The curtain closes and Taylor asks the executioner to release her. He makes the restraints tighter and tries to cut her head off with the guillotine. It does not work properly. As he tries to fix it, Taylor escapes.
The Other comes after her. He catches up with her and stabs her to death. Quinn sees what is happening and is immediately killed, stabbed, as he tries to intervene.
Brooke and Natalie see their friends die and the whole park is panicking now. The Other decides to go after the two girls. They run into the Hell house. The Other follows them in there. He finds an axe.
As the girls try to escape, Brooke starts to panic and is calmed by Natalie. She tells her where the room’s triggers are and they avoid them as they try to get out of the house.
The Other locks the entrance and the girls are forced to arm themselves when they realise they cannot get out the way they came in. The Other comes out of the shadows and injures Brooke with the axe. Natalie hits him and they escape, going and hiding in another room.
The Other goes looking for them and is distracted in a room of masks. Natalie attacks, allowing Brooke to escape. The Other knocks Natalie to the floor and goes after Brooke. A frightened Brooke forgets about the house’s triggers and tries to get out of the house. The Other finds her but is stabbed by Natalie before he can kill her.
The police come into the house and rescue the girls. The Other disappears. The Other returns home and removes his mask, putting it into a cupboard full of various masks. He is greeted by his young daughter. The end.
Hell Fest, with a screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood and Blair Butler from a story by William Penick, Christopher Sey and Stephen Susco, with an additional screenplay credit for Akela Cooper and directed by Gregory Plotkin, is a horror film by numbers, ticking boxes whilst not really pushing any boundaries horror-wise.
The horror is, to be honest, quite tame, the death of Mercurio’s Asher being the only truly horrible death in the film. Even so, it is not exactly a new or even inventive death. For a horror film, there is also very little blood.
The jump-scares, a staple of at least ninety-nine per cent of horror films, are weakened considerably because the film is set in a horror theme park where jump-scares are de rigueur, happening almost every thirty seconds. The acting is passable rather than good or bad, the story or script not really giving the cast a great deal to work with.
Because of the film’s setting and the makers’ misguided decision to have multiple horror rooms, in a seemingly vast theme park, the film has a spread out feeling that does not help the tension.
Conroy’s The Other’s decision to randomly kill in a busy theme park does not really work, especially as the fest is supposedly very popular, attracting thousands of people.
That he had already killed someone at exactly the same travelling theme park a few years before did not, unbelievably, deter the revellers. Obviously, park licenses are easier to come by in the States.
At eighty-nine minutes long, Hell Fest is not a long film, it is just a slightly underwhelming one. Plotkin’s directing is okay, nothing of note, but not horrible either. That the film has six writing credits is a little odd as there really is not six persons worth of creativity in the story or script.
Hell Fest is not terrible, but it is not good either, it is just sort of ‘meh.’ Watch it if you have run out of horror films to watch.