By Hemanth Kissoon
“The sun will scorch you.”
Taking cues from Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and Jose Saramago’s BLINDNESS, HELL is an entertaining, post-apocalyptic, horror-thriller surprisingly exec-produced by big budget disaster schlock-meister, Roland Emmerich. A global environmental catastrophe has occurred, caused by solar storms on the Sun. The Earth is seared, 10 °C higher in temperature. Food and water are in dreadful shortage. Law and order has broken down. In 2016 we witness this from the perspective of a small group of people.
Opening on the aftermath of a car crash, a trap, a couple are attacked. Cut to the claustrophobic interior of a family car where we meet sisters Marie and Leonie, and Philip. Quickly we come to understand that this is Philip’s car, and for protection, of herself and young sister, Marie is showing sexual interest. The windows are covered in paper to protect from the glaring sun, preventing anyone seeing outside. So desperate for water, they resort to bleeding radiators. There is a real sense of dread; the likelihood of harm hanging there. Because of the mountains pictured on an Evian bottle, they decide to head to higher ground in the search for a water source (I’m not kidding!). The plot kicks in when some marauders kidnap Leonie, and Marie goes all Sigourney Weaver (well a less gung-ho version) to find her.
The look of HELL is all washed out browns and yellows, and the action displayed in fast-editing and shaking the camera. On this occasion I don’t mind, as I guess the filmmakers are attempting to convey not being able to see much in the light. However, the use of sunglasses is pretty inconsistent. Plus there are the terror staples, a lady fighting people in her pants, and some peeps finding themselves tied and gagged in an abattoir. I didn’t mind some of the shoddier elements. It’s clearly an under-resourced production (e.g. there are no expensive SFX shots of abandoned cityscapes), but the atmosphere is maintained and the pace rarely lets up. For vapid genre hokum, this is what you want.
Zombie, vampire and monster apocalypses, handled well, are scary, but showing darker sides of humanity are ultimately the scariest. Not as intelligent as THE MIST, HELL is closer to the low-budget chills and thrills of STAKE LAND. Fans of end of the world movies might want to give HELL a whirl.