'Here Comes Hell' film review: Failed horror-comedy 'camp' is just tired kitsch
In trying to recapture the distinct, surrealistic feel of a 1930s film, the horror-comedy "Here Comes Hell" (screening during the 45th Seattle International Film Festival) comes off as a cheap reproduction rather than a genuine recreation.
In short: A 1930's dinner party descends into carnage, gore and demonic possession. Stars Jessica Webber, Tom Bailey, Margaret Clunie.
Jack McHenry's directorial debut is not only set in a time nearly 100 years ago, its texture and stylized tone mimics films of the time. "Hell" clearly makes the deliberate choice not to look and feel like a modern film set in the '30s. This vibe defines "Hell" - because the film doesn't make much effort to tell a story or flesh out its characters.
For a film that's not even 90 minutes in length, "Hell" sure takes its time to get the plot moving along. The movie spends its first half hour either dropping clunky exposition or awkwardly assembling the group of friends. The characters border on caricatures: the socialite is catty, the tennis player is a vapid playboy and the Texan literally says "don't mess with Texas." It's fine that the movie's characters are so one-dimensional - the real crime is how long "Hell" wastes in trying to establish them.
The film's broad character performances and retro feel can be explained as deliberate filmmaking choices - however, some technical issues are less intentional. At times, the sound drops - leaving dialogue difficult to hear unless the actor moves toward the boom mic. In these moments of simply poor execution, it's difficult to take the movie seriously at all -- even for a throwback horror flick intentionally going to campy fun.
In the end, "Hell" lumbers along until something finally happens - then it takes a sharp turn, and the lifeless flick just becomes a vague, unfocused horror movie. And none of it works. The alleged "comedy" is clunky and forced. Once "Hell" goes full horror movie, there's just no clear objective (aside from the characters just trying to stay alive). They run around a mansion, tormented by all manner of evil - but it's not until very late in the movie when they finally find some sort of direction and goal. Until that point where the movie finally finds narrative direction, it's just cheap-looking, over-the-top horror conventions terrorizing the dinner party guests. The antagonistic evil is vague and it's difficult to care at all about shallow, thinly-developed cartoon characters.
Final verdict: "Hell" is little more than camp and a thin premise. After meandering with a set-up that takes too long, somehow the rest of the film just devolves into horror nonsense.
"Here Comes Hell" screens during SIFF 2019. This horror-comedy is unrated and has a running time of 80 minutes.