Hell Fest film review: serial killer stalks a horror theme park in throwback genre movie

Is horror throwback Hell Fest a carnival of chills or a damp squib?

Anyone who’s ever been to a horror maze event knows the scariest thing about it is the length of the queues. Luckily this group of tragic teens know an insider who has landed them VIP bracelets, unfortunately for them there is a masked serial killer lurking in the titular travelling theme park. This tense slasher pays homage to 80s horror, with its neon lights and invincible stalker but director Gregory Plotkin’s (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) uninspired camera work makes this ride feel only intermittently thrilling, nightmarish and fun.

There’s not much of a plot to describe, with the film briskly introducing a group of six frisky friends before whisking them off to their demise. Two couples are already partnered up with the focus placed on Natalie’s (Amy Forsyth) attraction to Gavin (Roby Attal playing his role like he’s taken notes from Seth Cohen in The OC). Then plays out a romantic comedy of sorts as the two get drunk, relentlessly flirt and eventually hook up in a photo booth. Danger soon rears its ugly head, with the killer taking umbrage to Nathalie’s confidence as she works out exactly how each ride functions and faces off to him when he won’t stop following her.

What sets this slasher apart is the detailed production design from Michael Perry (It Follows) with each set piece invoking a different style of horror film tradition and Tobe Hooper’s body of work an obvious influence. Gory limbs hang from ceilings, demon clowns toot their horns, floating arms reach out to grab participants and creepy children appear as guides. Glorious, giant animatronic creatures provide some of the most delightful main attractions with a rock monster, detached, bloody eyeball and spooky skeleton dinosaur all given ample screen time to fully appreciate and suck you into the carnival-esque ambience.

Who makes it out alive? We’ll leave that to you to find out, but the final girl is given buckets of brains and pleasingly friendship, not romance plays a key part in her survival.