Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gregory Plotkin|
|Music by||Bear McCreary|
|Cinematography||Jose David Montero|
|Box office||$18.2 million|
Hell Fest is a 2018 American slasher film directed by Gregory Plotkin. 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 by CBS Films via Lionsgate.
Hell Fest was released on September 28, 2018, and grossed $18.2 million at the box office on a budget of $5.5 million. It received generally mixed reviews from critics.
At Hell Fest, a travelling horror theme park, a masked man known as "The Other" kills a young woman when she is separated from her friends in a maze. The Other hangs her corpse in the maze so it blends in with the props.
On Halloween night, Natalie goes to Hell Fest with her best friend Brooke, Brooke's roommate Taylor, their boyfriends Quinn and Asher, and their friend Gavin, who is interested in Natalie. The girls run into a terrified woman in one of the park's mazes trying to hide from the Other. Natalie, thinking this is part of the park experience, points out her hiding place. The Other kills the woman in front of Natalie after Taylor and Brooke leave. Natalie thinks the murder seemed too real to be a normal attraction, and once she reunites with the rest of her group notices the Other is stalking them. The group dismisses Natalie's fears until Brooke catches the Other stealing Natalie and Gavin's pictures from a photo booth.
While the rest of the group enters another area of the park, Gavin tries to steal a prize for Natalie when he fails to win one in a carnival game. The Other corners Gavin, and crushes his skull with a mallet. Because Gavin is still gone, Natalie goes on a ride alone while the rest of her friends pair up. The ride breaks down, and Natalie is approached by a man who appears to be the Other. This is part of the ride, however, and the group discovers park employees wear a mask similar to the Other's.
A park employee grabs Taylor and takes her away. The rest of the group splits up to find her, with the girls going in one maze while the boys go into another. The Other corners Natalie in a maze, but she escapes. Asher gets separated from Quinn, and is killed when the Other stabs him in the eye. The friends regroup, but they do not have much time to think about Asher's disappearance before an employee sprays Natalie with ooze. She goes into a bathroom to clean up, where the Other uses Gavin's phone to trap her in a stall. Natalie escapes and tries to warn park security about the Other, but a security guard dismisses the attack as part of the park experience.
Natalie, Brooke and Quinn find Taylor has volunteered to take part in an attraction where she will be beheaded by a guillotine in front of a live audience. Park security prevents Natalie from stopping the show when she recognizes the Other's boots on the executioner. The blade appears to come down on Taylor's neck, but it only beheads a dummy that looks like her. The Other tries to kill Taylor, still restrained in the guillotine, when he is left alone with her after the show. Taylor escapes when the blade fails to cut through her neck on the first blow. She runs away, but the Other catches up to her, kills her, and then kills Quinn when he tries to intervene.
As panic ensues in the park, security restrains a park employee they confuse for the killer. The Other traps Natalie and Brooke in a maze they mistake for the park exit. The girls are separated, and the Other corners Brooke. Natalie jumps out of a hidden door and stabs the Other in the gut before he can kill Brooke. As the girls make their way towards the maze's exit, police barge into the maze to save them and capture the killer. The Other, however, has escaped, and drives to his suburban home. He places his mask and the pictures of Natalie and Gavin that he stole into a cabinet with other masks and what appear to be trophies from his previous kills. The Other's young daughter wakes up to greet her father, and he gives her a stuffed animal from the park.
- Amy Forsyth as Natalie
- Reign Edwards as Brooke
- Bex Taylor-Klaus as Taylor Ann Smythe
- 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
- Daniel Wilson as creepy Park Owner
In December 2011, CBS Films entered negotiations with Neil Marshall to direct the film, with the hopes of spawning a yearly franchise akin to Paranormal Activity and Saw. Production was slated to begin in summer 2012 with Gale Anne Hurd serving as producer. The following January, Gary Dauberman was hired to polish a previous draft written by William Penick & Chris Sey. Marshall would later depart the project leading to Jennifer Lynch signing on to direct in August 2016. Filming was then expected to begin in winter 2016. In April 2017, editor-director Gregory Plotkin boarded the project as director after Lynch exited. Screenwriter Seth M. Sherwood was brought in after working with Plotkin on the virtual reality horror film Black Mass. Akela Cooper and Blair Butler also worked with the director for individual rewrites.
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 $7 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $18.1 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 65 reviews, with an average rating of 4.99/10. 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." Brad Miska of Bloody Disgusting gave the film a positive review with a 4/5 rating stating "Above all else, Hell Fest over-delivers on its promises, not just to be a hardcore, old school slasher film, but to take viewers inside a believable haunt. While Hell Fest may not actually be scary, the idea behind it is as frightening as anything you see in the news today." 
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 8, 2019
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