Today: February 22, 2024

Hell

Taking its title from the German word for bright (though the English meaning is just as apt), Hell imagines a truly hellish post-apocalyptic world where, 4 years from now, Europe has become a scorched wasteland after a 10 degree Celsius rise in temperature, forcing ordinary people to fight for survival as the dwindling supplies of food, petrol and precious water rapidly run out.

Taking its
title from the German word for bright (though the English meaning is just as
apt), Hell imagines a truly hellish post-apocalyptic world where, 4 years from
now, Europe has become a scorched wasteland after a 10 degree Celsius rise in
temperature, forcing ordinary people to fight for survival as the dwindling
supplies of food, petrol and precious water rapidly run out.

Driving across country in a beat-up Volvo that they’ve
made virtually lightproof, by blacking out the windows a la Near Dark, sisters Marie (Hannah Herzsprung) and Leonie (Lisa Vicari) and Marie’s boyfriend
Phillip (Lars Eldinger) are heading
for the Bavarian Alps in the vain hope that there’s still water and food up in
the mountains where it’s colder.

While scavenging for supplies at an abandoned petrol
station they encounter resourceful drifter Tom (Stipe Erceg) who first robs them before forging an uneasy alliance
with the group. When the group are
ambushed and Leonie is carried off by a bunch of cannibals, Marie will stop at
nothing to save her sister.

Drawing as much on movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Frontier(s) as it does on the likes of The Road, Hell is a satisfyingly dark, bleak vision of a world that
has quite literally gone to Hell.
The script is lean and spare, creating a convincing world while the
protagonists aren’t gun-toting survivalists, leather-clad road warriors or
martial experts but normal people forced to go to extreme lengths to survive
and not always doing the right thing.
The violence is fast and effective while barely showing anything but the
sombre desolate mood and gritty atmosphere convince you that you’ve seen far
worse. Hell feels like a violent film. The eye-squinting, bleached out look of the film’s daytime
scenes contrasts sharply with the darker, shadowy night scenes and interiors
which reflects the inner turmoil and motives of the characters. This is a world where danger is
everywhere, morality is fluid and ethics won’t keep you alive. The cannibal matriarch who tries to seduce
Marie into joining her group may be the bad guy but she’s not inherently
evil. She’s a pragmatist trying to
do the best for her family, to protect them, just as Marie is trying to protect
her sister.

The performances are good with Hannah Herzsprung making a
solid, believable heroine forced ultimately to rely on herself and Stipe
Erceg’s Tom is a nicely ambiguous hero.
Dominating the latter scenes of the film however is ‘70s arthouse
favourite Angela Winkler as the
cannibal matriarch, a woman who watched her farm and her life fall apart as
society crumbled and raises a very different type of livestock for the cooking
pot.

How much you like Hell
may depend on how much appetite you have for human misery, even its final
scenes inspire as much ambiguity as hope, but it’s an effective, harrowing
little film. Stark, powerful and
haunting, Hell is an uncompromising
vision of the end of the world.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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