Black-and-white independent U.K. feature Here Comes Hell starts off as a British comedy of manners mashed up with classic old dark house elements before suddenly rocketing into full-on horror territory. First-time director Jack McHenry and his cast and crew serve up a fun, frenetic helping of supernatural chaos.
George Walker, Jr., (Tom Bailey), son of an American oil tycoon, travels back to England to visit some friends from his Oxford University days. Old school chum Victor (Charlie Robb), heir to his father’s fortune, has just recently bought a dilapidated mansion called Westwood Manor that is avoided by the locals. Victor has invited his sister Christine (Margaret Clunie), tennis star Freddie (Timothy Renouf), Freddie’s new fiancee Elizabeth (Jessica Web), and Walker to the house not for a housewarming, but for a seance.
Medium Madame Bellrose (Maureen Bennett) arrives and attempts contacting, at Victor’s request, Ichabod Quinn, a practitioner of the dark arts who had previously lived in the mansion before passing away. It is here when Here Comes Hell goes absolutely bonkers in the best sense of the word, and the party guests are subjected to maddening visions and gruesome mayhem.
For the sake of keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible, but to at least hint toward the type of horror on display in the film, suffice it to say that fans of the Sam Raimi and Lucio Fulci schools of fright fare are going to find plenty to like in Here Comes Hell. Setting the tale in a bygone era – right around the 1930s, if my guess is correct – rather than the modern day offers up a fresh take on this unhinged type of horror story.
Seasoned fright fare fans know that holding a seance in a film is rarely a good idea, and that certainly holds true here. Some of Victor’s guests are already at odds together before they meet for the first time or reunite, and the physical and spiritual villainous visitors play on those emotions and relations. McHenry and cowroter Alice Sidgwick’s screenplay is loaded with tension of both the underlying and surface kind, and the humor is blended in wonderfully.
The ensemble cast is a blast. They walk the fine line between playing things straight and adding an air of humor at the right moments, and avoid straying into camp or scenery-chewing territory.
McHenry uses a variety of special effects, relying most heavily on practical effects, with a dash of stop motion thrown in for good measure. Though obviously made with a low budget, these old-school effects come across as charming and often cool, even when their financial limits show a bit. The CGI effects show those limits a little more, unfortunately, though not enough to hold it against the film. Expect plenty of blood-spilling and carnage, sometimes played for laughs and other times much less so.
With the look and feel of a mystery set-up like The Cat and the Canary or The 9th Guest combined with more modern horror techniques and storytelling from the 1980s to the present day, Here Comes Hell is a rousing, winsome independent effort with a big heart that deserves to find a wide audience.
Here Comes Hell had its world premiere screening at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2019 on March 1.