Have you been following the Fests? By which I mean the mystifying trend of having three films (so far at least) with the suffix 'Fest' in their titles that have all been shown in the UK over the last six months. First there was Owen Egerton's BLOOD FEST (2018) which was reasonably entertaining and had a UK cinema release. Then there was Ante Novakovic's appallingly bad AMERICAN FRIGHT FEST (2018) which was pretty much booed off the screen at last year's London FrightFest film festival.
And now we have HELL FEST which is neither as 'good' as BLOOD FEST nor as truly awful as AMERICAN FRIGHT FEST. Yes I've seen all three through a combination of misplaced enthusiasm and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. All these films entertain the same basic premise: a group of teenagers enter a 'for one night only' Halloween amusement exhibit only for them to end up being pursued and / or killed by something once they're there.
In HELL FEST it's a masked killer. There's no real backstory. The chap just turns up, pulls on a funny mask and off he goes. Is it worth your time? That depends on how many of these you've seen before and your tolerance for sifting through cinematic detritus in the hope of finding some good bits.
HELL FEST has a couple of good bits - there's a well-edited, suspenseful sequence with a guillotine and some excellent production design, especially near the end. The acting is reasonable (with a turn by the always excellent Tony Todd in the middle) and the music by the usually reliable Bear McCreary likewise.
Unfortunately director Gregory Plotkin doesn't do a terribly good job of wringing the scares out of his macabre setting. With the right director HELL FEST could almost (and I mean almost) have been a gloomy masterpiece along the lines of some of the weirder Italian gialli (the sets certainly have the iconography lying around to augment that). Instead, HELL FEST is just all right, something for the undemanding horror fan who hasn't seen this all before. Which probably means not very many of us.
HELL FEST is out on DVD from Vertigo on Monday April 1st 2019. It's already out on Digital HD