Horror considers in great detail how young people deal with inappropriate situations and all of life’s unexpected challenges. While the genre forces characters of all ages to face their fears, it is particularly interested in how young people can cope in life or death scenarios. Columns Young blood is dedicated to horror stories for and about teenagers, as well as other young people on the brink of terror.
Not all visits are done the same. While some are cut and dry with their fear, others go the extra mile when they arouse fear and nurture future nightmares. Amusement park seen in Gregory Plotkin‘s Hell party belongs to the second category; a class of attractions known as extreme haunts. The film’s namesake is massive and embellished from start to finish. Even when visitors enter the more frightening regions of the venue, they feel confident that nothing can actually harm them. After all, these haunts are about controlled fear. What Hell Fest and elsewhere liked to consider, though, is the possibility that someone might not be playing by house rules.
IN Hell party, the six protagonists visit the eponymous horror park on its busiest night of the year – Halloween of course. The already dizzying protagonist, Natalie (Amy Forsyth), has a clue that something is wrong when one of the hangout’s suspected actors, a menacing and masked figure in a black hoodie, relentlessly tracks her all night. Little by little, Natalie realizes that this is not part of the show and she is in danger. Unfortunately, it proves impossible to convince those around her of anything in a place where everything feels out of place.
Hell party pulls inspiration from several sources, but after seeing the opening scene, the one that comes to mind is a classic city legend. In this contemporary myth, a real corpse is discovered inside an attraction; someone recently died there and has since been mistaken for a prop. Another variant of the same legend has the haunt deliberately using a carcass as part of its decorations, but the former is the one woven into the film. The script begins with a random woman being murdered by the antagonist, known only as ‘The Other’ (Stephen Conroy), at another haunt several years ago. Later, Natalie’s friends commit the same crime in hopes of scaring her when they enter their own damned destination.
Hell party deals with the idea that very bad things happen in common sight. The Halloween background only intensifies the confusion at hand; the devil is acceptable and encouraged that night. As in the original Halloween – Producer Gale Ann Hurd respects his friend and mentor, Debra Hill, with Hell party – everyone’s sense of reality is thrown by this one day stupidity. People dress up in costume, play tricks on each other and let go of their most macabre tendencies. In places like Hell Fest, where the imagination is overstimulated and death is hardly a taboo concept, a person has to work harder to distinguish between truth and fantasy when something beyond the ‘ordinary’ happens. In short, it is the perfect time for someone like the Other to act on their dark urges and Get away with it under the guise of Halloween mishaps.
As the apparent character ‘last girl’, Natalie is obviously more cautious. Coming to Hell Party with Brooke (Rule Edwards) and their friends are Natalie’s way of stepping out of her comfort zone and getting away from the everyday. But when Natalie finally gets into the spirit of the night, she attracts the other person’s unwanted attention. As the killer eats at yet another of his random victims, Natalie comes out of her shell and helps what she thinks is an actress looking for her stage partner. What her friends ultimately think is too worrying to only see intrigue Natalie; she watches in morbid anticipation as the Other hovers a knife over its spinning target. Giving the killer permission – “Okay, just do it”- only puts an eye on Natalie’s forehead. The antagonist’s MO includes designating the braver people in haunted places and giving them something to be really afraid of. While a character faced with their fears in a horror film is typically empowering, Natalie’s boldness is what sets things in motion against chaos.
A slasher coming out today has to work harder than anything attached to a franchise. They often have to have a gimmick to get noticed, but what makes Plotkin’s film stand out is really its back-to-basics attitude and execution. The story is not only straightforward, yet engaging, but there is also a spiritual return to the slash of past times. The proven routine of chasing young people out in the real world and away from their safe spaces is something the subgenre did so well and often in the 80s. Hell party takes the same route while also sprinkling surprises along the way. On top of that, the setting is modernized without the film feeling timely.
Here is a movie that twists the idea of safe scares. In addition to the rather sympathetic figures is an immersive atmosphere and high production values. It is unclear whether what was intended to be a new and annual horror franchise will ever be more than once; the open end of the first film leaves room for a sequel. For now, Hell party is a welcome addition to both orders of slashers and horror movies that take place around Halloween.
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