Mondo Macabro has been revered for making it possible for modern home video audiences to see some of the most obscure cross cultural horror and exploitation films known to the genre. From Indonesia to Italy, Pete Tombs and Andy Stark have secured (and treated with lavish attention) movies that most fans would have had little chance to see if not for their efforts. Specializing in the forgotten and exotic, Bollywood Horror seems to hold a special place in their hearts, resulting in some of the more lyrical, wild, and visually insane spectacles to ever splatter the screen. As unique in story, themes, and execution as they are in their cultural ideas of sex and horror, many of these offerings defy expectation and logic, presenting US and UK film fans fresh cultural images grounded in unfamiliar religions and myths. Taking the leap from distributors to producers, MM unleashes their feature venture -- a deliciously demented and outrageous hybrid of the Slasher and supernatural thriller, the later of which has always held a deep foothold (at least religiously and philosophically) in the hearts of the people Pakistan. A collaborative effort between Pakistani director Omar Ali Khan and Pete Tombs, Hell's Ground is a cinematic orgy of exotic locations, believable performances, and high-octane creepiness sure to delight genre fans the world over with its clever yet unpretentious coupling of zombies and exotic occultism.
A simple story benefiting from delirious energy, convincing effects, and a sense of absolute weirdness, Hell's Ground merges conventions of the Body Count with Muslin parable, focusing on the nature of sin while mocking the conservative fear of sex and drugs. Five teens disobey their parents and break cultural norms by sneaking out for a road trip with their friends. Piling into a van, they get lost in the forest, run out of gas, and receive a warning from a native, who warns them they are on the 'road to Hell!' Ignoring this warning, they find themselves besieged by flesh eating zombies, fanatical religious zealots, and cults. While the plot is simple but satisfying in a manner only some of the most primal yet honest horror films can be, the real triumph of the production is the energetic manner of its telling. Style is emphasized over content and Khan evokes surprising amounts of suspense, tension, and terror. The story walks the fine line between camp and scares, opting to break boundaries and simply be what it is -- an entertaining mish-mash of various conventions that finds its own identity and invites jumps as easily as screams.
The script is an homage to the works of Romero, Fulci, and Hooper but not without its own merit, injecting originality into classic situations. Neither taking itself too seriously nor allowing the story to be pure camp, a satisfying and impressive tension throbs throughout the dark adventure. Editing by Andy Stark helps underscore this tension and fragmented sense of terror. A sense of the exotic is ever present, adding a surrealistic sense of wonder with its Muslim customs, Islamic symbolism, and colorful wardrobes. Violence isn't skimped in Hell's Ground, and the gore is poured on thick and heavy. More impressive is the cultural conflict surrounding the production, and the political-global disparity between that Pakistan and the rest of the world. Polluted nature, poor economic conditions, and the effect this has on families is a central theme here, and more horrifying than the staged scares, creating an uneasy friction between comedy and tragedy. Behind the chuckles and spirited if goofy music (a wonderful element that captures both the free spirit and slap-splat momentum of the picture) are religious fanaticism and generational conflict -- a bold sub-text for what is sure to become a cult classic!
Review by William Simmons
|Released by Mondo Macabro|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|