Starring Ashfaq Bhatti, Sultan Billa
Directed by Omar Ali Khan
We don’t often get to see movies out of Pakistan, and I can’t remember ever seeing a horror film out of Pakistan. So, Hell’s Ground is a first, and for a first, it shows great potential but potential doesn’t necessarily mean a good film.
Five Pakistani teens hit the road to go see a rock band, against their parent’s judgment. Have you heard this set up before? The group stops off at a shop for some snacks and they’re warned by the shopkeeper to turn back because the road they are on leads to Hell’s Ground! Hmm still very familiar. Of course the group doesn’t listen; they get back in their van and hit the road. Along the way they run into zombies, a crazy shaman, and a masked killer with a mace. Omar Ali Khan wears his influences on his sleeve with this movie and unfortunately he hits all the clichés of late 70’s and early 80’s slasher flicks from the United States. The group is made up of a pot head, a party girl, and a prude, typical of this kind of film from the 80’s similar to any Friday the 13th you may have seen.
Unfortunately the film takes the tropes of the early 80’s that we are all really tired of seeing rather than using them as an influence and doing something completely new. Rather than see a low budget rip off of The Town that Dreaded Sundown (I doubt the director ahs actually seen that film but he’s obviously seen other films of that type and era) I’d like to see something that representative of Pakistani culture. What about a film based in folklore from that country? At least give me a film that’s heavily politically and socially influenced by that country rather than trying to do a film from the United States in Pakistan. There is a bit of potential social relevance when it’s revealed that the zombies come from polluted river. Also, societal and religious requirements Pakistan are apparent in the film and they do influence the story a bit. Overall it felt like the director was trying to wedge the square peg of a western horror film into the round hole of his country. I can respect that, but again I’d rather see some something more of the country and less of a revamp of American horror.
Hell’s Ground also seems to take the director’s favorite parts of films he loves and throws them in with no story that ties them all together. The teens just seem to move in and out of areas that feature different monsters but these monsters don’t carry any weight in the story. It’s almost like a funhouse ride more than a movie. Visually I liked the mace but it never gets much real use in the film. Unfortunately Hell’s Ground has only a shoestring of a story, low budget special effects, cliché characters and bad actors, and no visual style at all. The director really loves horror films though, and if he keeps working to perfect his craft we may start to see some interesting horror films from Pakistan.
This film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and overall it looks better than you’d expect. The image is soft but the colors look good in brighter scenes. Darker scenes get murky and detail drops off quite a bit. Grain is minimal but apparent too. Detail in brighter scenes is also solid. Skin tones look good too for the most part. It’s not amazing but it’s pretty clean for an imported low budget film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is fairly solid with dialogue, score, and sound effects mixed clean and well balanced. There are actually some scenes featuring some use of the full surround environment here and there. The dynamic range is weak though, mostly due to the bland score. Again, this presentation is better than you’d expect.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes in a standard amaray case with some odd artwork. The framing of the image is kind of odd. I had to look at it twice to figure out that the guy on the cover is in a burka. The font for the title of the film also gives it more of a 70’s exploitation feel similar to what Rob Zombie did with The Devil’s Rejects but this film doesn’t fit that mold.
The amount of extras on the disc is small but interesting. The director gets to share a lot of information about getting his film made and the trials of getting it distributed. There’s also footage of a premiere of the film and another short from the director. Not a lot here but is here is interesting stuff.
While I don’t think theirs much originality in Hell’s Ground I’m still pulling for the director to bring us something truly new and unique from his unique perspective.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
The Movie 4/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10