Review: Tedium quickly overwhelms promising opening of horror flick ‘Gehenna: Where Death Lives’

The tedious, derivative supernatural thriller “Gehenna: Where Death Lives” gets off to such a strong start that it takes a while to grasp just how dire the movie actually is. Between its splashy opening scene — depicting a gruesome tribal ritual — and the credits’ promise of appearances by genre favorites Lance Henriksen and Doug Jones, “Gehenna” misrepresents itself.

Henriksen and Jones are barely in the movie. The former’s in one scene, setting up the story via a phone call. Jones pops up a few times, wearing the freaky makeup he’s become known for from his collaborations with Guillermo del Toro; but he never sticks around for long.

Instead, first-time feature director Hiroshi Katagiri works with a competent but unspectacular cast, led by Eva Swan as a resort hotel rep who’s scouting a potential new property on the island of Saipan. When she and her team stumble on a World War II-era Japanese bunker, they go exploring, gradually uncovering evidence that something horrible happened there.


Before long — as tends to happen — the interlopers find themselves repeating the patterns of violence, dissension and madness that destroyed everyone who came before them. They’re also, unaccountably, haunted by their worst memories from their own pasts.

“Gehenna” features impressive gore effects, but the plot’s an uninspired hodgepodge of dozens of other “haunted structure” pictures, set at a plodding pace, in a gray, dim location. It peaks in its first five minutes. The remaining 100 go nowhere, slowly.


‘Gehenna: Where Death Lives’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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