Gehenna: Where Death Lives (A Night Of Horror Film Festival)
Eva Swan, Simon Phillips, Justin Matthew Gordon, Matthew Edward Hegstrom, Sean Sprawling
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Bloody and moody, Gehenna is an impressive feature debut.
In this claustrophobic horror from director, Hiroshi Katagiri, a group of land developers, visiting the island of Saipan for a reconnaissance, become trapped in a WW2 bunker that they foolishly decide to explore. With their only exit mysteriously blocked, the group are pursued in the dark by spirits, walking corpses, and out-of-time Japanese soldiers. There’s an element of Event Horizon to the proceedings, as each of the group, including head honcho, Paulina (Eva Swan), her architect, Tyler (Justin Gordon), and their photographer, David (Matthew Edward Hegstrom), succumb to an evil presence that wants to expose traumatic memories.
Impressively filmed on a tight budget, Katagiri certainly uses his experience as an effects artist on big blockbusters, such as AI and Looper, effectively. The bunker that Gehenna calls home for its running time is filled with impressive practical effects, which are always a refreshing cleanser after a season of Marvel-like CGI barnstormers. Dried corpses, masks made of skin, and death by shovel are just some of the “treats” that the filmmaker has lurking for his audience in the gloom.
Outside of the effects, Gehenna’s plot, which leaps from modern Saipan to the Spanish landings and WW2, strategically offers a trail of breadcrumbs before its gut punch ending. Taking into consideration the different time zones, the themes of colonisation run deep and, whilst Gehenna is out to scare more than it politicises, it certainly adds the feeling that spirits, the land, or something wants revenge. Whilst the film could probably go another round of editing in terms of length, it still keeps a tight grip on its audience’s attention for the most part, largely through Katagiri never being too obvious with his scares. Bloody and moody, Gehenna is an impressive feature debut. Keep an eye out too for a cameoing Lance Henriksen.