Monday, October 29, 2018

Horror Movie Mini-Reviews: Hell Fest (2018) and Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

* Hell Fest (2018)

Natalie returns to to her hometown to visit her best friend Brooke only to find an enemy from high school living there too. Together, with boyfriends and Gavin (to set up with Natalie) in tow, they all go to Hell Fest, a new Halloween haunt at an amusement park that pushes the boundaries. Natalie sees a masked man kill a panicked girl and dismisses it as a realistic act, but when the man follows them throughout the park, she thinks he might actually be dangerous.

Hell Fest is a fun, solid slasher film. The characters are fun and developed enough to root for and the killer feels scary and omnipresent. Natalie is afraid of Hell Fest and her friends really aren't the best to cajole her into it, but Brooke and Taylor are just delightful. Brooke supports her friends completely and Taylor's infectious excitement and fun nature made me like her despite Natalie's reluctance. The killer is known as The Other (only in the credits) and he completely blends in with the employees. He easily enters the park, steals a weapon, and picks out his victims for the night. The concept of the film creeps me out because I love events like this and real violence could blend into set pieces and tableaus as well done effects.

The kills are well done and there are enough misdirects to keep the plot interesting even though it's a bit predictable. Tony Todd makes a wonderful cameo and I wish he had a more major part. The mazes portrayed in the film are the only flaw. I've been to quite a few haunts and many of the set pieces looked cheap and not very impressive. Even the "extreme haunt" being that actors can touch you felt like a bit of a let down. Extreme haunts mean crazy borderline torture like McKamey Manor. Other than that, Hell Fest is a worthy entry into the slasher subgenre and has a fun ending.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

* Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

F.W. Murnau travels to Czechoslovakia with his cast and crew to shoot his slightly changed film adaptation of Dracula called Nosferatu. No one knows anything about Max Schreck, the star actor of the film to portray the vampire. He only appears in costume and in character, but he acts strangely. As filming goes on, crew disappear, cast is attacked, and the director keeps filming no matter what happens.

Shadow of the Vampire is an underrated gem of a film that combines horror elements and pitch dark comedy. Even though it's the tonal opposite of Nosferatu, this film recreates so many of its shots perfectly and captures the tone of that film alongside the separate, offscreen story. Willem Dafoe captures the vampire's inhumanity and his comic ignorance of human society. The rest of the cast and crew are so wrapped up in themselves and on mind altering substances that they don't seem to notice anything other than an eccentric actor. John Malkovich plays a cruel version of F.W. Murnau who trades lives for the perfect film and commits everything to film no matter how horrible.

The situations are both dark and hilarious with some moments of genuine emotion. It's tragic that Greta and the other actors are reduced to food. The vampire's sadness is palpable when he speaks of eternal life, not knowing how to destroy himself, and forgetting the niceties of human society. If you haven't seen this film, I would highly recommend it. Just brace yourself for strange characters and bizarre situations that have nothing to do with the reality of creating Nosferatu. Unfortunately, this film's only release is on grainy, horrible DVD and I hope something like Scream Factory will pick it up for a much needed Bluray release.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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