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FrightFest 2019 Review - HERE COMES HELL

here comes hell review
A seance in a crumbling mansion unleashes Hell.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jack McHenry

Starring: Tom Bailey, Maureen Bennett, Alfred Bradley, Jasper Britton, Margaret Clunie

here comes hell poster


What if Evil Dead era Sam Raimi made a 1930s Old Dark House chiller utilising the sort of video effects you most associate with '80s British TV shows like Sapphire & Steel? If that's a question you've ever asked yourself - and if you're at all interested in the type of movies that premiere at FrightFest, there's a high chance it is - then Jack McHenry provides a fun if superficial answer with his directorial debut, Here Comes Hell.

here comes hell review


The '30s saw a slew of horror and mystery movies that riffed on the Agatha Christie premise of a bunch of toffs gathered together in a crumbling mansion, where they are subjected to various terrors, often of a supernatural nature. McHenry's initial setup takes us back to that era as George (Tom Bailey), the son of an American oil baron, takes a train journey to a dinner party at the decrepit old English country manor recently purchased by his friend Victor (Charlie Webb). A fellow passenger warns George that the manor has a history of misfortune befalling its tenants over the centuries, but the American laughs it off.

[ READ MORE: FrightFest 2019 Review - A Good Woman Is Hard to Find ]

The other guests at the manor are failing tennis star Freddie (Timothy Renouf) and his lower class girlfriend Elizabeth (Jessica Webber), who is instantly targeted for snobbish mockery by Victor's catty sister Christine (Margaret Clunie).

After dinner, Victor surprises his guests with the arrival of Irish psychic Madame Bellrose (Maureen Bennett), whose subsequent seance unwittingly opens a gateway to Hell in the catacombs beneath the mansion. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

here comes hell review


Opening in the fashion of James Whale's Frankenstein with a tuxedo clad host warning viewers that those of a sensitive disposition might want to avoid the terrors that lie ahead, Here Comes Hell sets its nostalgic stall out early. It's clearly designed with a cine-and-horror-literate audience in mind, and as such, many of its laughs require a familiarity with the type of movie it's referencing.

[ READ MORE: FrightFest 2019 Review - The Furies ]

As someone who loves such creaky old thrillers, I was pleasantly amused throughout, and I was relieved that McHenry never opts for the cheap option of straying into explicit parody. This isn't a Scary Movie for '30s horror, rather it has more in common with micro-budget filmmaker Larry Blamire's loving homages to B-horrors (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra; Dark and Stormy Night et al) - it's a love letter to movies that often weren't made with much love to begin with.

here comes hell review


McHenry doesn't go the whole hog and shoot this on 35mm film, or add any fake grain or scratchy effects, which is a wise decision, as to do so would likely have proved distracting. Instead he relies on some impressively mounted shots, with cinematographer Rory McHenry (the director's brother?) adding much production value with moody lighting and fluid camerawork; and a cast who are, crucially, tuned into his wavelength. Clunie is the standout as the bitchy Margaret, delivering a deliciously camp performance that might have seen her win a role on Dynasty if this had been released in the '80s.

[ READ MORE: FrightFest 2019 Review - A Serial Killer's Guide to Life ]

Post-seance, Here Comes Hell moves away from its '30s trappings somewhat as it opts for Evil Dead style histrionics. As such, the second half is less involving, as the sardonic banter of the assembled snobs takes a backseat to the gory set-pieces. While it's fun to see '80s style splatstick transposed to a vintage monochrome setting, it does feel a little too much like the many Raimi clones we've been offered over the decades. But at a brisk 75 minutes, Here Comes Hell certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, and the brief running time and its b-movie trappings make it a suitable candidate for the bottom half of your next Friday night horror double bill.

Here Comes Hell is on Digital HD November 11th.


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