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Review: Retro slasher ‘Hell Fest’ lacks the scares of the classics

Review: Retro slasher ‘Hell Fest’ lacks the scares of the classics
Bex Taylor-Klaus, left, Christian James, Reign Edwards and Amy Forsyth in the movie "Hell Fest." (CBS Films / Lionsgate)

The retro slasher movie “Hell Fest” takes place in one of those haunted maze attractions that lately seem to pop up every year at Halloween, in off-season amusement parks. The premise allows for some spectacularly spooky sets, though director Gregory Plotkin and a team of screenwriters fail to use them for anything all that scary.

The filmmakers do add at least one welcome twist: The male characters are blanks, while the women have personality. Amy Forsyth stars as Natalie, a bookish college student who joins her BFF Brooke (Reign Edwards) and their feisty acquaintance Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) for a trip to an elaborate, multi-attraction haunted park, where a masked serial killer has blended in with the other employees.

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But once the ladies’ types are established, they don’t have much amusing or interesting to say. Who they are hardly matters to the plot, which sees the gals and their dimwitted guys proceeding from one creepy maze to another, barely even realizing they’re being stalked — until it’s too late.

“Hell Fest” has exactly one genuinely nail-biting scene, involving Natalie trapped in an empty restroom, with a useless cellphone. Otherwise, the movie does little to update, subvert, or comment on the trappings of classic thrillers like “The Funhouse” and “Halloween.”

Actually, there is one other fresh take. In the ’80s slashers, the young people were doomed after they had sex. In “Hell Fest,” they’re targeted whenever they express respectful affection for one another. Progress?

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‘Hell Fest’

Rated: R, for horror violence, and language including some sexual references.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

Playing: In general release

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