WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

"You came here to be scared. I can't arrest people for doing their job. Welcome to Hell Fest."

Those words from a security guard at an extreme Halloween horror park don't do much to quell Natalie's terror. The young woman knows a guy in a creepy mask has been stalking her throughout the evening. In fact, she may have even seen the sadistic spookster actually murder another young woman. The attack certainly looked real, anyway.

But in a theme park that's supposed to scare you, one where you have to sign a waiver that allows terrifying masked actors to touch you, how can you be sure what's real and what's just really well acted?

The ironic thing is that studious, stressed-out, straight-laced Natalie never would have chosen a night of entertainment like this for herself. Nope. Not her thing. At. All.

But when she gets together for a weekend reunion with her high school BFF (Brooke) and a wild child she hasn't seen since grade school (Taylor), well, they've got other ideas. Not only are they looking for a thrill to share with each other and with their significant others (Quinn and Asher, respectively), they're also hoping to help Natalie hook up with a hot guy named Gavin.

Natalie reluctantly agrees to the evening's hellish entertainment docket. The mock horrors that the group soon plunges into are admittedly a bit more tolerable as Natalie and Gavin hit it off (complete with a lip-locking session in a photo booth).

But that guy with the mask keeps showing up. And he's really good at being really creepy.

That's right about the time that Natalie's friends start to go missing, one by one.

Welcome to Hell Fest indeed.

Positive Elements

Natalie and Brooke have a deep friendship, the kind that stands the test of time. As the movie's intensity level ramps up, Natalie and Brooke express their sisterly affection for each other, with each sweetly telling the other, "I love you."

When the plot reaches its tipping point, and the dwindling number of surviving friends begins to realize that something truly horrific is happening, they do their best to protect each other. That's especially true of Natalie and Brooke, with Nat helping her friend through a hell-themed maze after she's wounded. Natalie bravely tries to stand up to him on a couple of occasions as well, in part to save her friend and in part to save herself.

Spiritual Content

In a movie called Hell Fest, one that's centered on the overlapping themes of horror and Halloween, it's no surprise that we're exposed to a lot of demon-like imagery—all of which is of the B-movie (or perhaps C- or D-movie) variety.

Devilish costumes, vampires, gargoyles, hellhounds, demonic trappings, pentagrams and other diabolical props (such as a decapitated exhibit victim's faux body hanging on a cross) fill the theme park. We see one room in which nuns are apparently dishing out torture. One (of many) fright-filled mazes is called "Welcome to Hell." Someone jokes, "Nice to be in hell." Someone else quips, "I'm going to hell without you." Not surprisingly, hell jokes flow pretty freely here.

Despite a story that's chockful of visual references to the devil, however, not a one of 'em has anything concrete to do with the spiritual realities it caricatures.

Sexual Content

We don't see any sexual encounters, but Taylor, especially, talks about sex nonstop. We hear crude references to various sexual activities as well as multiple slang references to the male anatomy. Taylor notes that "fear is an aphrodisiac," and says that any biological "organism's only real purpose is to reproduce."

We hear a joke involving transsexuality, and another that makes light of someone having lost her virginity a long time ago. One of the guys hits, jokingly, on a bearded lady (who plays along). Brooke and Natalie plan a vacation in Spain which, Brooke insists, should include finding a topless beach.

Two female characters make suggestive gestures and movements mimicking sexual activities. Someone pantomimes being spanked by a zombie. There's also talk of whether zombies can be sexually aroused or not. It's clear that each established couple in the film (Tayler and Ash, Brooke and Quinn) is sexually active.

We see all three couples making out very passionately at different points during the film. There's quite a bit of discussion about whether or not Natalie and Gavin will hook up sexually at the end of the night. (Brooke says Natalie is welcome to use her bedroom if necessary.)

All three primary female characters wear cleavage-revealing tops. Brooke's crop top reveals most of her midriff. She encourages Natalie to exchange her conservative shirt for something more revealing that enables her to "let out your inner slut" (which Natalie agrees to).

Violent Content

Hell Fest—both the movie and the theme park it's named after—is filled with gory, gross, bloody, nasty, disgusting exhibits of all kinds. Instruments of torture (racks, guillotines, crucifixes, tubs of acid, etc.) furnish many rooms. Rotting corpses, dismembered appendages, impaled victims and skeletons litter the place like so much Halloween confetti.

A mock decapitation concludes with a fake head being held aloft by one of the park's actors. Monsters, aliens, scary clowns (who, ironically, aren't scary at all) and dudes in masks roam the joint like starving hyenas, looking for some poor sap to startle.

Some of the human-ish creatures in various scare rooms are clearly props, while many other exhibits include a blend of devilishly outfitted animatronic characters with real actors sprinkled among them. People wandering through these macabre milieus are sometimes startled. (The audience? Not so much.)

As for this slasher flick's real violence, well, there's a fair bit of that, too. One person is battered by the masked villain, who's wielding a huge mallet; that beatdown that eventually ends with the victim's head being smashed Gallagher-style, like a watermelon. Another person is the victim of a painful failed decapitation (the rusty blade of the guillotine only gets far enough into her neck to motivate her to find a way to get out of the contraption). Multiple people are stabbed to death. (We see their bloody shirts, as they're all stabbed in the stomach.) One unfortunate victim who's not quite dead gets finished off with a lynching. (We see her dangling feet twitching momentarily.)

Another of Natalie's clan who unwisely finds himself alone (why do people always, always, always split up in these movies?) finds himself with a long needle and syringe rammed brutally (and mortally) into one of his eyes. Someone else gets slashed with an ax (though not fatally). Natalie unleashes perhaps half a dozen blows on the masked man, predictably to no avail.

[Spoiler Warning] The film's conclusion is ostensibly intended to layer on one last layer of schlock and awe. After the masked murderer in the middle of the mayhem manages somehow to escape (seemingly mortal wounds almost never finish these guys off), he goes home, removes his mask, and hangs it up in the garage in a locked cabinet with six or seven other masks. The implication? Just another day at the office for this guy … and he's still out there! After that, he goes in and greets his grade school-aged daughter, who's waiting up and thrilled to see her beloved daddy when he gets home after a long night at work, apparently. Yuck.

Crude or Profane Language

Profanity is another big contributor to this film's R-rating. Nearly 100 total profanities include about 25 uses each of the f-word and s-word, more than 15 misuses of God's name, at least four abuses of Jesus' name, and several uses each of "b--ch," "a--," "a--hole," "d--n," "d--k" and, of course, "h---." (The latter is used at least four times as a swear word, though it's not always easy to tell what constitutes profane usage in a movie where it's used almost continually to describe the theme park.)

Drug and Alcohol Content

Before everyone heads to the park for the evening, Taylor is already swigging freely from a flask of hard liquor. There's a reference to tequila. Natalie and her friends do shots, served in syringes, at a Hell Fest bar. One exhibit pictures a seemingly dead woman with a syringe (presumably indicating that she died from intravenous drug use) still stuck in her arm.

Other Negative Elements

One of the young women is shown using the bathroom. (The camera watches from the top of the stall, and nothing is seen.) After she's done, the masked assailant tries to attack her in the stall. When Gavin takes a long time getting back (as in, he never comes back), the women speculate that he probably just needed to go the the bathroom. "Everybody poops," Brooke chimes in helpfully.

Weirdly, the killer hums "Pop Goes the Weasel" right before he attacks people. This is supposed to be scary. It is not.

Gavin is such a clutz he can't win a stuffed animal for Natalie. So he sneaks into an area where they're stored to steal one after seeing another guy walk out with several huge stuffed critters. That moral lapse is the last one he ever makes.

There's a crude discussion about what hobos' backsides smell like. An actor in an alien outfit spews goop all over Natalie.

Conclusion

As this movie mercifully lurches and shuffles toward its conclusion, Natalie and Brooke think they can exit the park by entering an exhibit called Welcome to Hell.

Only in horror movies are people this stupid.

As they scramble through a demonically decorated maze in search of said escape, a Vincent Price-esque voice intones, "You are at the entrance to hell. Can you make it out the other side?" Funnily enough, that's exactly how I was feeling by that point in the movie. (Scratch that: Much earlier, actually.) Only not, I suspect, in the way this movie's makers intended.

This ridiculous, derivative and predictable carnival of crass carnage might more accurately have been dubbed Dumb Fest. It felt like an odd mash-up of Halloween and Scooby-Doo—only with a lot more blood, gore and profanity than the latter ever proffered as Shaggy, Scooby and the gang prosecuted their often supernaturally tinged sleuthing.

Suffice it to say scares are in short supply in this R-rated schlockfest. As is common sense, for that matter: If you're trying to escape a masked serial killer in a horror theme park, prolly best not to head into an exhibited dubbed "Welcome to Hell" in the hope of finding a happy ending.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Amy Forsyth as Natalie; Reign Edwards as Brooke; Bex Taylor-Klaus as Taylor; Roby Attal as Gavin; Christian James as Quinn; Matt Mercurio as Asher

Director

Gregory Plotkin ( )

Distributor

CBS Films

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

September 28, 2018

On Video

January 8, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!