Hell Fest: The Longest Goosebumps Episode
By Oscar Yanek
October is in full swing and that means that kids are buying costumes, the leaves are changing color, and Hollywood is pumping out sub-par horror movies. “Hell Fest” is a rated R slasher film that follows the story of a masked serial killer who on Halloween sneaks into haunted houses dressed like the actors, torturing and killing visitors. The movie opens with a flashback of the masked man chasing a teenage girl through a haunted house before killing her. Then, back in the present, three college girls -- two best friends Natalie and Brooke, and Brooke’s roommate, Taylor -- get ready to attend a Six Flags Fright Fest-style Halloween theme park called Hell Fest. Once they arrive at the park, Taylor and Brooke’s boyfriends, Asher and Quinn respectively, are briefly introduced, but do not hold much relevance over the course of the movie. Soon afterwards, Natalie and her friends spot the masked man killing someone, although they do not believe that it was real. The masked man starts following Natalie, and a night of horror ensues.
The only things that “Hell Fest” really murdered were $10 and two hours of my Saturday night. I found myself caring less about the characters as the film continued, completely ruining any of the suspense or thrill in the movie. The script does a really poor job creating the characters of the college kids, as it tries too hard to make them relatable to a younger audience, failing nonetheless. Taylor is meant to be the edgy, punk, and emo girl, who is interested in the supernatural. Instead, Taylor’s character is really outgoing, super arrogant, bullies Natalie, has way too many PDAs with her jock boyfriend, and drinks a lot. Brooke is supposed to be the attractive popular girl who has a jock boyfriend, parties a lot, and is in a sorority. Instead she rooms with a scene girl and her best friend is a school nut who never has time for fun. I do not know if her boyfriend fits her character because of how insignificant his character was. Natalie’s character is not as bad: she is introduced as studious and anti-social, so she is awkward around boys, and does not want to go to the amusement park. Natalie actually fits this part pretty well in the beginning, but by the end of the movie she is drinking with her friends, forgets about her date that she was originally really into, and willingly goes into the scariest part of the park even after being freaked out by the masked man following her around. The only saving grace would be Gavin, who plays his part as a shy college guy on a date with a girl flawlessly. The growing relationship between Gavin and Natalie during the first scenes at the park felt very real. Gavin is awkward around Natalie, and makes jokes to lighten the mood. Natalie is not used to guys being into her and doesn’t know what to do with Gavin’s attention. They both are obviously into each other, which all of their friends make fun of them for. Their characters just work really well together and it’s sweet watching them get to know each other as Gavin keeps trying to win Natalie a prize from the Carnival games. Sadly “Hell Fest” is not a Romcom (SPOILERS ahead) and before the halfway mark Gavin gets separated from the group and has his head smashed in with a giant hammer (the first death of the film). Without any connection to the characters or any stakes on whether they live or die, the movie is no longer compelling to watch.
However, the movie wasn’t all negative. There were some moments where the film effectively played to the murder-amusement park trope. During some scenes where the audience was led to believe someone was going to get murdered, the climax turns out to be a scare for the park. My favorite moment of this is when Natalie is riding an indoor ride that suddenly stops, all the emergency lights come on, but she is still locked into her car. As the lights start flickering and she sees the masked man, she yells for help, but no one comes and the screen cuts to black. In the next scene however, Natalie is safe on the other side of the ride and the breakdown scare was only part of the ride. If more of the movie consisted of these fake near death scares, the movie would be more engaging. Instead there are only a few scenes that use this tactic and the movie continues at a boring, predictable pace. The plot is unoriginal and follows a storyline typical of american horror films. I would not recommend paying to see this film, but if you ever end up seeing it in your Netflix queue and have nothing better to do, you will have a fun time.