A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hell Fest is a grisly slasher movie set in a horror-themed fun park, where college students are chased by a masked killer. There are several killings, with lots of blood: A head is bashed in, an eye is run through with a sharp object, and women are attacked and wounded. Characters kiss frequently, and there's some mature sex-related talk and sexual gestures. Language is also strong, with several uses of "f--k," "s--t." and more. The characters drink in a social context, but not to excess. Overall, the movie has an old-fashioned, 1980s-style energy, and even if it isn't great or entirely original, the characters are appealing, and horror hounds will likely enjoy it.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In HELL FEST, bookish college student Natalie (Amy Forsyth) takes a break from her studies to spend an October weekend with her best friend, Brooke (Reign Edwards). The plan is to go to the scary amusement park known as Hell Fest, along with Brooke's boyfriend, Quinn (Christian James); her roommate, Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus); Taylor's boyfriend, Asher (Matt Mercurio); and a nice boy named Gavin (Roby Attal), who likes Natalie. Though not exactly Natalie's cup of tea, the park is lots of fun ... at first. But then they have a run-in with a masked figure who stages a very realistic murder and starts to follow them all over the park. One by one, the friends start disappearing, and park security won't believe that anything suspicious is going on. It's up to Natalie and Brooke to face the creep in the scariest part of the park: the Deadlands.
Is it any good?
Reveling in the kind of scares that were popular in the 1980s, this slasher fest is far from great, but the characters have an appealing realness, and it's spirited and fun overall. The 20-somethings in Hell Fest, especially the three young women, look like real people rather than fashion models, and they actually seem like they could be real friends, not just "types" thrown together. Their excited, blurted dialogue sounds like it could have been improvised; it never sounds overly scripted. The theme park itself, which is much like many modern-day horror-themed mazes and fun houses, is filled with the kind of stuff that you might find at a Halloween Spirit Store, but artfully arranged and lit.
Director Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) uses the constricted space of the hallways and rooms for maximum tension. Taking a cue from creepy-carnival movies like Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse (1981), effects appear to lean toward the practical, with actual stage blood and gore, rather than rubbery-looking digital effects. The movie's killer (who hums "Pop Goes the Weasel") is a weak spot; he has nothing to offer that any other masked murderer in movie history hasn't already tried, although the movie cooks up a unique ending. A highlight, however, is Tony Todd -- best known as the title monster in Candyman (1992) -- playing a carnival barker with a penchant for the dramatic.
Talk to your kids about ...
What's the appeal of horror movies? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?
How are kissing and sexual relationships portrayed? Do the characters seem responsible? What values are imparted?
- In theaters: September 28, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: January 8, 2019
- Cast: Bex Taylor-Klaus, Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards
- Director: Gregory Plotkin
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: horror violence, and language including some sexual references
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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