by Adam Riske
Wish Upon tweaked my brain to the point where now I’m super excited for any new teen/college-aged horror film. Friend Request was rough. Truth or Dare was pretty funny. Slender Man had its moments. Next on my list chasing this very specific 80% genuine/20% ironic horror dragon was Hell Fest. I was all in after seeing its amusing trailer, where every young person seemed irritated. I sat down and watched the movie and, to my pleasant surprise, it’s not "tongue-in-cheek" good -- it’s actually good. Good like I can defend it without having to apologize or prefacing that maybe it’s just my specific taste in movies. Hell Fest is straightforward, tense, and a helluva lot of fun. It could have been very generic and disposable, but instead director and former (?) Blumhouse editor Gregory Plotkin (he co-edited this film) uses it as an all-out kick-butt calling card that reminded me of Jaume Collet-Serra with his 2005 House of Wax remake. I might need to watch Plotkin’s previous directorial effort, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, now. I guess Hell Fest isn’t a calling card. I blew that comparison, didn’t I?
There are some things I didn’t love about Hell Fest despite pretty much loving the movie on the whole. As I mentioned, I was worried at the beginning because the characters are a bit in your face (the performances for the most part are fine/it needed more Tony Todd/where’s Joey King?) and also I’m not sure the ending is entirely satisfying (which I won’t hint or spoil). None of that overtakes the film’s best qualities, though. The production design of this park and these mazes are fucking amazing. It feels grounded enough where you’d see them in a real attraction, but specifically at the best horror maze attraction you could possibly visit. I know Six Flags parks in a few cities (including Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis) have mazes based on this movie throughout the month of October. I’m going to one. I need it! Eighty percent of me hopes I genuinely make it out of there and 20 percent hopes I ironically don’t.