Natalie (Amy Forsyth, Channel Zero: No-End House) is visiting her best friend Brooke (Reign Edwards), who along with Brooke’s pal Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus, The Killing, Scream: The TV Series) coax Natalie into going to Hell Fest with them. Seems Natalie’s crush Gavin (Roby Attal) has VIP passes for the lot of them to experience the joys of the Halloween theme park without all the lines. Also along for the ride are Taylor’s steady feller Asher (Matt Mercurio) and Brooke’s bf Quinn (Christian James, Dollface). Naturally, not all of them are going to live to see the morning when a serial killer called The Other (Stephen Conroy, Cell) takes an interest in disrupting their lighthearted shenanigans.
It has the standard slasher earmarks: the masked killer, the large cast of disposable characters with a clearly delineated final girl. But happily, it’s also more than the sum of its parts. It’s not particularly scary (or even suspenseful), but it does a good job of highlighting the concept of stranger danger, and that fiends “walk among us.” (And they’re nowhere near as recognizable as the final girl.) When the gals try to present their predicament to a security guard, even if he wanted to help them (he doesn’t), it’s a huge park, The Other is wearing the same Michael Myers/Freddy Krueger-blend mask that many of the park employees wear, and he blends in. It’s impossible to tell who the killer is.
The movie is quite diverse—for a slasher. (Or any other kind of movie.) Roughly half of the main characters are people of color. Not the final girl, of course, but I’ll take it. Speaking of which, horror icon Tony Todd has a cameo as a barker.
It raises some gender issues as well. The killer’s victim in the opening bristles that he’s stalking her and snaps, “Now leave me alone.” And then he respects her wishes and leaves. Just kidding, he guts her. What kind of slasher movie would we have if women weren’t begging for their lives? Going back to the guard, another problem he has with helping Natalie is that the park employees are paid to scare people, and he pretty much calls her a whiny baby. It doesn’t matter that Natalie is being targeted and doesn’t like some stranger going outside of his job description and following her around (even before he starts stabbing her friends).
Aside from that, my biggest gripe is why the hell does this guy not wear gloves? I get that there are a bazillion fingerprints from the mob attending the park, but he has the maddening habit of throwing down his murder weapons at the scene and just leaving them. Overall, I liked (not loved) it. While watching, I grumped in my notes, ‘Losing what little taste I ever had for slashers,’ but the movie won me over. The characters are surprisingly easy to like and even tell apart, and it’s entertaining. Really, they had me at Tony Todd.