Judge David Johnson drinks coffee called Hell's Grounds. Tasty stuff. Murder on the small intestine, though.
"Don't be silly my child. Men don't wear burqas."
If this, Pakistan's first splatter movie, is a sign of what's to come from the country's film industry, then sign me up!
Facts of the Case
A group of five fun-loving Pakistani teenagers decide to cut school and head out in their fly van for an adventure in the woods, no doubt packed with smoking, drinking and other sleazy, unsavory teenage activities. But what starts out as in innocent outing quickly turns into an endless nightmare when the kids finds themselves deep into a forgotten corner of the wilderness, inhabited by flesh-eating zombies, a crazy matriarch and a brutal killer in a burqa running around bludgeoning people with his clumsy ball-and-chain weapon.
And Pakistan gets in the game! The country's debut splatter-rama, helmed by ice cream store owner Omar Ali Khan (he funded this film with revenue from his ice cream empire) and co-written by Pete Tombs of Mondo Macabro, is a fun, messy gore romp that pays homage to many iconic horror films, while still remaining unique in its own surreal way.
The most obvious influence is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You've got a group of hard-partying friends traveling in a van who pick up a crazy hitchhiker and end up caught in the clutches of a bat-@#$% crazy family and hunted by a mute, possibly retarded, killer. Trade in a mask made of human flesh for a blood-stained burqa and you're looking at The Islamabad Chainsaw Massacre. Add in some Romero-like zombie action and an admitted aping of the finale in High Tension and Hell's Ground is a mix tape of horror geek-love.
But if you've got a burqa-clad killer twisting off people's scalps like a bottle-cap and spooning out eyeballs while acne-ridden Pakistani zombies devour intestines in a nearby field, then chances are you've got a chance to be granted access into the Pantheon of Whacked Splatter Flicks that Gorehounds will Love. And I submit that Khan deserves entry. His characters are quirky and interesting—especially the indigenous sideshows that the kids meet on their way to their deaths—the gore effects are messy and well-done, the kills gratuitous and the tone tongue-in-cheek, the sum total of which is WIN!
Hell's Ground may not be the most original endeavor, but Khan nails all the beats (okay, clichés, but they're done so lovingly) and his finished product is such a satisfying treat, the fact that I saw a lot of this stuff before in other movies—and why the heck is that girl putting her head on the psycho's chest to listen for a heartbeat?!?—did little to negatively impact my enjoyment of the film.
I would have liked to see a little more done with the zombification disease, which is teased heavily in the beginning of the film, but is eventually discarded, and the dialogue-heavy first third is as painful as any other teens-on-their-way-to-slaughter slasher flick (and not enhanced by the subtitles), but if you're like me and you've seen so many poseur splatter flicks that offend not because of their derivativeness but because they just don't entertain, getting a hold of something that's pure fun like Hell's Ground is, well, heaven.
A good DVD awaits you. Video (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) and audio (5.1 Dolby Digital) add up to a worthy technical presentation and the bonuses—a passionate director's commentary, a great making-of documentary and footage from the premiere—are good.
Any self-described horror fanboy should find something to appreciate from Omar Ali Khan—obviously one of your own.
Not guilty. Hell, yeah.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
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