Hell DVD Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Directed by Tim Fehlbaum
Written by Tim Fehlbaum, Oliver Kahl, Thomas Wobke
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 89 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 2 July 2012
Hannah Herzsprung as Marie
Stipe Erceg as Tom
Lisa Vicari as Leonie
Lars Eidinger as Phillip
Anna Sarah Hartung as Sophia
Lilo Baur as Franzosin
Miserable Germans struggle to survive in a cheerless post-apocalyptic landscape where the sun blazes with a lethal intensity and water is in scarce supply. It's not quite the Hell that the melodramatic title suggests, but it is rather like Waterworld in reverse.
In the year 2016, solar radiation has become so bad that much of planet Earth has been reduced to barren, parched desert. Thankfully there's little room for Al Gore and his friends to smugly assert that they told us so, because they're probably dead along with the majority of the population. Not dead, and struggling to survive in this landscape are Marie, Leonie and Philip. As they bleed the radiators (for drinking water) at a gas station, they come across Tom, who attempts to steal their car and water supply. Bonding over a tin of peaches, the group decides that it might be mutually beneficial if he joins them in their journey. Rightfully so – young Leonie is promptly kidnapped by a tribe of local psychopaths, and Philip is less than sympathetic. Leave it to Tom to rustle up some molotov cocktails and, um, also get kidnapped.
The plot might sound similar to that of The Road, but Hell actually has more in common with a Wrong Turn movie. At times, the end of the world feels like more of a subplot than anything else. As Marie lies bound and gagged in her skimpies, trussed up in a dark room, one would be forgiven for thinking that they'd actually tuned into Wolf Lake by accident. The cut from post-apocalyptic drama to backwoods horror is unexpected but not unwelcome – both aspects of the story are told well, so neither is any hardship. The most interesting thing about it is the characterisation of Phillip, an entertaining coward who expects Marie to simply leave her sister in the hands of her kidnappers. The relationship between Marie and Leonie is sweet, convincing and well-acted by Hannah Herzsprung and Lisa Vicari. Young but combat-ready as they are, the girls make Hell feel like The Hunger Games crossed with The Hills Have Eyes.
The story, characters and acting are fine, then, but Hell is not without its flaws. I've mentioned this about several movies of late, but Hell is far too dark. The characters are always whining about how hot and bright it is, but much of the story is set in a series of pitch black rooms and bleak forests. It would be nice to watch a modern straight to DVD horror movie and not have to squint to make out what's going on. During the daylight, post apocalyptica is portrayed in a very bleached, washed out manner - very similar to the space antics of Danny Boyle's Sunshine. The world, while not astoundingly original (it looks identical to that of Fallout 3) is well realised. It comes as little surprise that cinema's master of mayhem, Roland Emmerich, serves as executive producer. He could take note here, since Hell's more intimate scale and modest budget give the film an emotion and humanity lacking from the director's more recent pieces.
Hell is an interesting and diverting piece of European horror that shows a promise it doesn't quite live up to. It's fun, but ultimately nothing to get hot under the collar about.
Video and Audio:
It looks and sounds fine. Scenes set indoors or in the woods are far too dark, but those in the ravaging sunlight are where the film looks at its best.