Judge Paul Pritchard spent 92 minutes in his Hell, made on a shoestring.
Our review of 6 Degrees of Hell, published January 25th, 2013, is also available.
"We all make our own Hell, Chief."
A horror-themed hotel becomes the scene for a series of gruesome murders, which piques the interest of paranormal investigator Kyle Brenner (Corey Feldman), who is convinced the murders have darker motives than is initially apparent. Brenner's investigation reveals how apparently random elements, including a young girl with psychic abilities and a TV presenter, led to the killings after they became the unwitting tools of an evil force intent on destroying their small Pennsylvania town.
Criticizing young, relatively inexperienced filmmakers is never fun, and it genuinely pains me to say this, but 6 Degrees of Hell (Blu-ray) feels like the cameras began rolling on this picture with nothing more than a basic outline of a plot in place. At its heart, the film has a sound idea for the basis of a solid horror movie. Hotel proprietor Jack (Brian Gallagher) runs a horror-themed event at his hotel, in which visitors get to be scared witless by the staff who dress up in all manner of gruesome costumes. Hoping to add a little authenticity to his establishment, Jack has procured numerous objects that are rumored to be haunted. Unfortunately for Jack, the items in question are the real deal. On his big opening night, the evil spirits within them possess his staff, causing them to massacre his patrons. A cool enough concept, yet awful in its execution.
The biggest problem is all the excess padding writer Harrison Smith unnecessarily insists upon, which takes far too much of the focus from the film's real strengths. Several characters are introduced, including a young girl, June (Nicole Cinaglia), who is struggling to handle her growing psychic abilities, and her friends who are dealing with the ramifications of her last, deadly, prediction; Erik Sanborn (Kyle Patrick Brennan), a TV psychic investigating the hotel; and paranormal investigator Kyle Brenner (Corey Feldman, The Goonies), whose involvement actually takes place after the main events of the film, as he looks to piece together what exactly transpired at the hotel. One assumes June is the main protagonist, simply due to her having the most screen time, but her arc isn't fleshed out enough to sustain the viewers' interests, while the involvement of Sanborn and Brenner only serves to confuse matters further. Kyle Brenner's plot thread, which actually opens the film, is particularly troubling. With his subsequent sporadic appearances taking place after the main events, the rest of the film is effectively a series of flashbacks. That in itself is fine, but when you start throwing in flashbacks within flashbacks you're asking for trouble as the narrative becomes increasingly harder to follow.
The final act of 6 Degrees of Hell does see things improve ever so slightly, as the film's emphasis shifts ever so slightly toward a more straightforward gore-fest. It's by no means brilliant, and is in truth barely passable, but the more streamlined approach to storytelling is arguably more effective than the previous 60 minutes of banality.
Only the most lily livered of viewers will find 6 Degrees of Hell scary, but all credit to director Joe Raffa (who also takes the prominent role of Keller Hudson), who has crafted a decent-looking horror film. His use of lighting is impressive, and not since Luci Fulci's City of the Living Dead have I seen fog as thick as Raffa employs in a graveyard scene at the film's midway point. Credit is also due to the effects team Raffa has brought in, as their makeup work is excellent.
Detracting from what is otherwise a reasonably strong film, in visual terms, is the fact that it was shot digitally. Call me old-fashioned, but you just can't beat a horror movie shot on real film. Still, this does lead to a strong transfer, which makes the Blu-ray release difficult to fault. The level of detail is excellent, and if darker scenes occasionally suffer from a little video noise, it is the only complaint I can level against the video presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fine, with clear dialogue.
Breaking Glass has put together a good selection of extras for 6 Degrees of Hell (Blu-ray), which is all the more impressive when one considers the usual lack of supplemental material afforded to similarly low-budget releases. The fim's world premiere is briefly shown. Lacking the red carpets you would expect for a big studio release, 6 Degrees of Hell instead had its big night at a local multiplex where the film was shot. While some might scoff at what is a modest event, it's actually good to see the excitement of the cast and crew as they get to present their film to an enthusiastic audience. A brief making-of follows, which is of interest solely for it discussing the real Hotel of Horror that influenced the film. A 15-second blooper of Corey Feldman reacting to an off-screen event really doesn't warrant including, let alone being listed as a standalone extra. "Joe Versus The Hotel" is basically a tour of the real Hotel of Horror, and is a fun addition. Making up the numbers are a handful of trailers, a photo gallery, and a couple of faux-TV commercials. One final note worth mentioning is that, despite stating the disc is Region A only, it worked fine in both my Region B Blu-ray players.
6 Degrees Of Hell seems to go out of its way to turn what is in truth a rather straightforward story into an incomprehensible, convoluted mess. While repeat viewings do help to make some sense of the chaos, they also seem to confirm the suspicion that Smith and Raffa are making it all up as they go along. 6 Degrees of Hell is best avoided then, despite Corey Feldman's frankly awesome hairdo.
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