Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gregory Plotkin|
|Music by||Bear McCreary|
|Cinematography||Jose David Montero|
|Box office||$17.5 million|
Hell Fest is a 2018 American slasher film directed by Gregory Plotkin, and written by Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler, and Akela Cooper, from a story by William Penick, Christopher Sey and Stephen Susco. The film stars Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, and Tony Todd, and follows a group of teens who are stalked by a serial killer while visiting a traveling Halloween carnival. It was released on September 28, 2018, by Lionsgate and CBS Films, received generally mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and grossed over $17 million.
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Hell Fest is introduced as a horror theme park which travels across the country during the Halloween season. A young girl from Cincinnati is shown to be separated from her group during one of the mazes. There she is confronted by a masked figure known as "The Other" (Stephen Conroy). She recognizes The Other as a man who had been following her and her group of friends the entire night. The Other attacks the girl, stabbing her in the gut before hanging her. The young girl's corpse appears to blend in with the other prop bodies as The Other leaves the scene.
Natalie (Amy Forsyth) is shown to be arriving at her former apartment where her best friend, Brooke (Reign Edwards), still resides. She greets her old friend but is disappointed to learn that a former classmate, Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus), whom Natalie does not get along with is living with her. Though Natalie's visit was planned, Brooke is shown to have been uncertain that Natalie would actually arrive as she had been distant of late due to school and work. As such Brooke and Taylor arranged a visit to Hell Fest with Quinn (Christian James), Brooke's boyfriend, Taylor's boyfriend Asher (Matt Mercurio), and their respective friend Gavin (Roby Attal) who is attracted to Natalie.
The group meet at Hell Fest where Gavin hands all of them VIP wrist bands so that they can skip the lines. At the same time The Other arrives wearing worn out steel toed boots. The Other notices a girl named Britney insult a worker at the amusement park. After Britney walks into The Other and dismisses him as not being scary, he targets her, stealing a knife from a worker making snow cones. The group arrive at a haunted maze where Natalie, Brooke and Taylor get separated from the group. As Natalie is about to finish the maze she watches as Britney appears, disheveled and in fear, telling Natalie that a man is after her. Natalie assumes it is part of the park experience as The Other arrives in search of Britney.
The Other sets his sights on Natalie, who deems him as not being scary before revealing Britney's location. The Other drags Britney from her hiding place and holds her down in view of the girls. Brooke and Taylor decide to exit while Natalie chooses to stay. Britney struggles but is stabbed in the gut and killed. Natalie notes that the murder seems very real and leaves disturbed. After meeting back up with her friends she turns and notices The Other watching them. She notices him a number of times, complaining to her friends that she feels he is stalking the group. The group dismisses her until Brooke catches The Other stealing pictures from a photo booth where Gavin and Natalie were kissing.
The group believes that the man has left them alone and decide to enter The Dead Lands area of the park, which is described as more intense than the normal area of Hell Fest. Gavin chooses to stay behind in order to obtain a prize for Natalie, opting to steal a prize from the employee lockers. Gavin is cornered by The Other, who proceeds to smash his head in with a mallet. The Other steals Gavin's cell phone and uses it to text Natalie. The friends enter the Dead Lands where they learn that the mask worn by The Other is in fact a mask worn by many employees in the Dead Lands. Natalie, Brooke, and Taylor decide to go into one maze while Asher and Quinn choose to go into another.
In the maze Natalie is nearly cornered by The Other but is able to escape. Meanwhile, Asher and Quinn are separated in their maze. The Other finds and attacks Asher and, after a short struggle, stabs Asher in the eye with a syringe. The group is distracted from Asher's disappearance by an employee who sprays Natalie with an ooze. Natalie cleans up in the bathroom with Brooke. There, the two agree that they have let their friendship weaken and decide to go to Spain after the Halloween season. Brooke leaves Natalie alone to finish cleaning up. There Natalie texts Gavin only to hear his cell phone in a nearby stall. She texts again only to hear the same notification. The Other corners Natalie in a bathroom stall before entering an adjacent stall and attacking her from above.
Natalie escapes and with Brooke's help warns security. The security guard dismisses the attacks as part of the park experience and possibly pranks being pulled by Gavin. Brooke, now believing Natalie, agrees to warn Quinn and Taylor about the danger. They arrive too late though as Taylor has volunteered to be "beheaded" in front of a live crowd via guillotine. As part of the show the performer (Tony Todd) has a fellow employee known as “The Executioner” restrain Taylor into the guillotine. Natalie recognizes the worn steel boots from the bathroom attack being worn by The Executioner. She attempts to warn Taylor but is stopped by security. The blade of the guillotine is dropped and "beheads" Taylor, though it is clearly all for show and Taylor is shown to be fine. Security reprimand Natalie while the curtains close leaving Taylor alone and restrained with The Executioner.
The Executioner forcibly restrains Taylor in a way that leaves her neck exposed to the guillotine before revealing himself to be The Other. The Other drops the guillotine blade, but as it is dull it merely lacerates the back of Taylor's neck. Taylor is able to undo her restraints and escape after the lever on the guillotine gets jammed. Taylor runs through the crowd in her attempts to escape, running by the group. Quinn notices her and follows and is in turn followed by Natalie, Brooke, and security guards. Thinking that Taylor and The Other are employees, a park-goer stops Taylor during her escape and shoves her into The Other's grasp where he slashes her cheek with a knife before stabbing her in the gut. As he is attacking her, Quinn confronts The Other but is himself stabbed twice. Brooke is distraught as she watches her friends die but Natalie urges her to escape as the nearby parkgoers panic.
The park is closed while security contact the police, now aware of the real danger. Brooke and Natalie mistake the final most intense maze of the park titled "Hell" for the exit and become trapped after The Other follows them and locks them inside. Realizing they must go through the maze in order to escape, both Natalie and Brooke are injured by The Other, now wielding an ax which he stole from the ride. The girls are separated and as The Other corners Brooke, Natalie locates them and stabs The Other. With The Other incapacitated, Natalie and Brooke make it to the exit where police are waiting.
Though safe in police custody, the girls learn that The Other has escaped. A car is shown pulling into a suburban house while news confirm fatalities (announcing that four of the victims were killed) and their connections to the opening scene. The car is shown to be driven by The Other, who locks his mask in with a number of masks suggested to be masks connected to other theme parks. The Other then walks into the living room of the house where a young girl is sleeping. The young girl awakens and gleefully greets the man (whose face is never shown) as "Daddy". She asks if he got her anything, and he shows her a stuffed animal Asher won for Taylor.
- Amy Forsyth as Natalie
- Reign Edwards as Brooke
- Bex Taylor-Klaus as Taylor
- Christian James as Quinn
- Matt Mercurio as Asher
- Roby Attal as Gavin
- Tony Todd as The Barker
- Michael Tourek as Security Guard
- Courtney Dietz as Britney
- Elle Graham as The Other's Daughter
- Stephen Conroy as The Other
The film was released in the United States on September 28, 2018.
Hell Fest has grossed $11.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $4.5 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $15.6 million, against a production budget of $5.5 million.
In the United States and Canada, Hell Fest was released alongside Smallfoot, Night School and Little Women, and was projected to gross $5–7 million from 2,293 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $2 million on its first day, including $435,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $5.1 million, finishing sixth at the box office. It fell 60% to $2.1 million in its second weekend, finishing eighth.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 40% based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 4.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Hell Fest might give less demanding horror fans a few decent reasons to scream, but it's neither clever nor frightening enough to leave much of an impression." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 26 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it 2 out of 5 stars.
Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com gave the film 1.5/4 stars, writing that "Hell Fest is a pretty bad movie that makes a great case for more slashing at horror theme parks." Keith Uhlich, writing for The Hollywood Reporter ultimately said "You've seen it all before, and better." Dennis Harvey of Variety also found the film generic, specifying, "Eye candy without much to offer the brain or emotions, Hell Fest is a competently crafted slasher film rendered instantly forgettable by its disinterest in character, plot, and motivation, let alone original ideas." Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a D+ and said "even slasher junkies desperate for a fix will find themselves bored by Gregory Plotkin's lame second feature...it delivers the tedious, heavy-breathing buildup associated with the genre, but skimps on the scares and the gory, gooey good stuff." Michael Nordine of IndieWire also gave the film a D+ and, while applauding its "vaguely feminist subtext," found that "for the most part Hell Fest simply adheres to long-established genre tropes."
The film is set to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 8, 2019
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