HERE COMES HELL

★★

HIGH SOCIETY BRITISH HORROR

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
25th May 2019

Many will argue that any movie gets better when you're a little stoned, but the best movies to watch high usually deal with silly situations or weird experiences that are especially funny because of your current state of mind. These are films that improve your stoned experience and vice-versa (being stoned will improve these films). Most scary movies have jump scares and are meant to keep viewers on the edge, but there are a select few horror films that are perfect to watch while smoking. These films are scary while also being rather light and mellow, making for a spooky yet calm marijuana movie night.

Director Jack McHenry’s micro-budget (£22,000, or around AU$40,000) horror-comedy ‘Here Comes Hell’ begins with a husky, moustachioed gent named George (Tom Bailey). Lugging around a suitcase and a dodgy Texan accent, he is travelling through England by train to see his old Oxford uni chum, Victor (Charlie Robb) at his newly inherited mansion, Westwood Manor. Also coming to celebrate is Victor’s vampy sister, Christine (Margaret Clunie), impeccably enunciated tennis player Freddie (Timothy Renouf), and Elizabeth (Jessica Webber), Freddie’s “average” new girlfriend.

'HERE COMES HELL' TRAILER

Over drinks and banter, Victor reveals the origins of the dilapidated Hammer Horror-type of house: Westwood belonged to an Alistair Crowley-style occultist, Ichabod Quinn (Nicholas Le Prevost). As a lark, Victor has hired Madame Bellrose (Maureen Bennett), a highly skilled medium, to hold a séance to contact Quinn’s ghost.

Before you can say "klaatu barada nikto" (or just ‘Evil Dead’), the spiritual conduit is possessed by Quinn’s spirit, takes a bullet to the face from George and begins chasing the gang around the mansion, sans half her head, like an episode of 'Scooby Doo' on acid. Not only that, but everyone begins to experience strange hallucinations, and the five realise they will have to defeat some extra-dimensional evil entities if they ever have a hope of leaving Westwood Manor alive.

Inspired by ‘Blithe Spirit’, the 1945 British fantasy-comedy film directed by David Lean, first-time director McHenry makes the most out of his black and white film’s old-fashioned style, from some obvious rear projection being used for scenes in cars through to a sinister host telling the audience that what they are about to witness is not for the faint of heart. A mix of practical effects and animation are used throughout, and they look terrific. Aside from the aforementioned Sam Raimi classic, cinematic reference points seem to include James Whale’s ‘The Old Dark House’, Edgar G. Ulmer’s ‘The Black Cat’, Roger Corman’s ‘House Of Usher’, Nathan Juran's 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman' and some of Lucio Fulci's gorier "knife to the eye!" films.

Before you can say "klaatu barada nikto" (or just ‘Evil Dead’), the spiritual conduit is possessed by Quinn’s spirit, takes a bullet to the face and begins chasing the gang around the mansion, sans half her head, like an episode of 'Scooby Doo' on acid.

Two actors manage to stand out: Margaret Clunie is amusingly arch as Christine, making droll comments while chugging down booze, and Timothy Renouf is in top form as the crisply turned out and toffee-nosed Freddie. Unfortunately the screenplay, written by McHenry and Alice Sidgwick, is strangely flat and the over-the-top line delivery of the actors is often funnier than the lines themselves. The film also isn’t scary, so we’re left with an interesting exercise in resourceful filmmaking and visual style but not much else.

That said, ‘Here Comes Hell’ is perfect festival circuit fodder. It’s loud and quirky, with a blessedly brief running time at 80 minutes. You can add a star or two if you’re after a low-budget horror film to watch late at night after tooting the vape pen, smoking a blunt, dabbing or scarfing down some canna-buttered popcorn.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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