I had seen Gehenna: Where Death Lives among Horror titles on Netflix a few times while browsing and said to myself “Oh, I’ll watch that next time.” at least twice. Well, this time was “next time” and I settled in to watch the movie with zero expectations or knowledge of the film beyond the trailer (though Doug Jones being credited did influence that decision).
The People of Gehenna
As previously mentioned, Doug Jones (Hellboy, The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth) being in the film influenced the decision to watch. But Lance Henriksen (Alien, Terminator) too? Sign me up! Only to find that both actors have very little screen time. The film stars Simon Phillips, Katherine Taylor, Justin Gordon (Oculus, Before I Wake), Matthew Edward Hegstrom and Sean Sprawling as Pepe.
Gehenna: The Premise
The film opens with a company looking to expand their resorts into Saipan, part of the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific ocean. They send representatives out to survey the area. During that exploration, they find an old bunker that wasn’t mentioned by their tour guide. When they arrive at the bunker, they find natives praying to it. The group decides to explore the bunker and end up locked inside. After being trapped for some time, they figure out they’re stuck in a sort of time loop, where the past recurs thanks to the curse of an old chieftain of the island to protect it from invaders. The curse, which had been trapping people since the Spanish Conquistadors found the islands, clearly still works.
Gehenna: Wish You Were Here
The film welcomes the viewer with gorgeous beaches and colorful, bright settings (prior to the bunker). It also does a great job of explaining the relevance of Saipan during World War 2. The monsters in the film look great, not quite living, mostly dead. Decrepit, but still functioning.
And that’s about it.
I Thought I Was The One Stuck In A Time Loop
The characters were not particularly complex, boiling down to their basic elements. Guarded male and female protagonists, inept kid brother, angry man and meek native guide. The pacing of the film slows to a crawl once the bunker is introduced. While I understand that the story unravels there, its progress was certainly stunted. Once the surviving characters realize the curse they’ve put upon themselves, explained through one of the heroes dying dialogue, the movie then goes back and shows the viewer what had just been explained for 15 minutes with another 10 minute scene. My perception of the film is definitely influenced by the anticipation of story progression. But was followed by an almost immediate backtracking or diversion every time.
Sayonara and adios, Gehenna
I can safely say that I wouldn’t recommend this film for someone looking to enjoy a great horror film. It doesn’t have the charm of campy horror like Killer Klowns From Outer Space, but it also doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. The plot is definitely interesting, but I feel like the movie falls flat in the way it delivers what could be a very rich story. For now, I’m giving it 2.5 Cthulhus and that .5 is because I’m a sucker for island curses, World War 2 references, and tropical settings.
(2.5 / 5)
Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out all of our reviews and news at HauntedMTL!