Hell Fest is a movie in which your darkest fears come to life. The traveling amusement park brings the best haunted mazes, rides, and apparently: a real masked killer to stalk you and your friends!? We recently has the chance to sit down with director Gregory Plotkin and producer Gale Anne Hurd to talk about the significance of the setting and how they brought this terrifying premise to life.
Between Plotkin’s editorial work on Get Out and Hurd’s involvement in The Walking Dead, they know a thing or two about making something scary feel real. Be sure to check out their film Hell Fest, you’ll have the time of your life! Or death, whichever you prefer.
DeVaughn Taylor for Nightmare on Film Street: Right out the gates, this movie is based on an amusement park and we are doing this interview at one as well, what about the environment drew you in to want to tell a story there?
Gregory Plotkin: It’s so familiar, it’s a language we all speak. And the great thing about this film in this environment is the anonymity the killer can have within this environment. I think that’s what I sparked to. I love these horror mazes. I love amusement parks in general and the great thing is… is the guy next to me the killer? Any one of the people in the maze right now…are they actually a killer? Are they more than just a performer?
Gale Anne Hurd: They can hide in plain sight. And it’s a group activity. You go with your friends, you experience something, you think that you’re going to the other side and everything will be fine. Back to your daily lives: your worries, tests, presentations at work…
NOFS: Except for that small moment.
GAH: Exactly. And once he’s targeted you, he’s not gonna let you go.
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“…the best horror comes from a place of ‘it could really happen’. It feels believable and that was our goal, to make it feel believable…”
NOFS: Like you said, with hiding in plain sight, the movie can manipulate that fear that you have going into amusement park. you’re going in wanting to get scared but then when the fear turns around and becomes real it’s a whole different story.
GAH: Especially in an environment in which there are fake scares all the time. So you think “Oh, they’re in on it. This isn’t real. These are just more performers.” So you got that suspension of disbelief already built in. And then if it’s real how, do you get people to believe you?
NOFS: It kind of hit me personally. In my hometown, we had an incident at a haunted house. Were there any real life stories that inspired the film?
GAH: No, yours is the first!
GP: I think all the best horror comes from a place of it could really happen. It feels believable and that was our goal, to make it feel believable. This is a park that you watch on screen. This a park that you believe exists and I think that’s what makes people somewhat comfortable. And then obviously, it makes them much more scared and adds to the movie experience.
NOFS: The park really felt alive and it showed off your background in editing, the color correction is absolutely gorgeous. So with most directors, they are more writers/directors. How did you approach the film as more of an editor/director?
GP: Coming from editorial performance has always been huge for me, appreciating the production design. I get to sit with the footage and really just fall in love with it. First and foremost, had to find a cast that felt real and be able to find those real performances. I think our three girls and three guys all felt great within each other, but then as a group of six they felt super real and that was very important. And then creating this environment that I’ve been able to again, appreciate it on set. Looking at it… it just felt real natural. It was always important for me to sort of take my roots from editorial and if I pass that test, it was going to pass the whole test.
“We wanted to create a mask that was simple, yet scary […] once he points you out and he finds you: he’s locked in on you.”
NOFS: We have so many different masked killers, so many different slashers and now we have a new killer into the horror mythology with an interesting twist. How did this killer come about?
GP: The idea that it could be anybody that was really the idea. We wanted to create a mask that was simple, yet scary, that didn’t overpower the audience or the experience. But just a real idea that, unfortunately today, there’s bad incidents that happen everywhere. So the fact that we wanted to create somebody that, as Gayle keeps pointing out, once he points you out and he finds you: he’s locked in on you. It’s scary. We’ve all been in those situations where it feels like that could actually happen to us and we wanted to create a very grounded, real kind of character. Not someone too fantastical that did things beyond the realm of reality.
GAH: And the mask you said were inspired by older masks that you saw?
GP: Yeah, these turn of the century death masks, these paper mache masks kids would make. So I wanted to create something that felt grounded, real, and just a little bit off center. So when you look at it: you know it’s creepy, you know you’re unsettling, you just don’t quite know why.
NOFS: You definitely unsettled me, I’m never gonna look at steel toed boots the same ever again! Thank you so much, the movie is a fun time.
Hell Fest is in theaters now, and is a perfect addition to your 31 Days Of Halloween watch-list. We also sat down with horror icon and villain extraordinaire Tony Todd to discuss the new Candyman remake and his role as The Barker in Hell Fest. You can read the full interview HERE. Did you see Hell Fest this weekend? Let us know what you though of the film over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club group on Facebook.