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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Hell's Ground

Hell's Ground
2007 (2008) - TLA Releasing

I've been a big fan of cult DVD studio Mondo Macabro since I first stumbled upon their stuff a few years back. Their releases consistently expand the boundaries of your cinematic consciousness with the most insane titles from Indonesia, Turkey, and all corners of the globe. No longer content with unearthing these bizarre gems, Mondo Macabro partners Pete Tombs and Andy Starke have decided to make world cinema a little bit wilder themselves. Their first feature film as producers, Hell's Ground, is billed as the first splatter movie from Pakistan. And like the cult classics released through their DVD label, it's a winner.

Directed and co-written by Omar Ali Khan, the plot is a comfortable stew of familiar horror movie tropes. Five kids leave the city in a dilapidated van on their way to a concert. They make a pit stop at a creepy rural tea shop run by an even creepier old man (played by Rehan, Dracula from The Living Corpse) who warns them of their inevitable doom. An ill-advised short cut leads them to a fatal encounter with an unstoppable, mace-wielding killer in a blood-stained burqa, a deranged hitchhiker with a severed head, and an old woman who seems helpful and friendly but you just know she ain't. Oh, and there's also zombies running around for some inexplicable reason. Go figure.

Setting aside the exotic locale, the most unique thing about Omar Ali Khan's directorial debut is the energy and sheer delight he takes in mixing all these disparate elements together. Hell's Ground is part Texas Chain Saw Massacre, part Evil Dead, part Dawn of the Dead, and part every other horror movie Omar Ali Khan grew up loving. Yet the movie doesn't suffer from lack of originality. That's because these influential movies aren't being directly quoted. Rather, they are filtered, distilled to their essence and combined into something that may not be unique but is definitely a lot of fun. With very little money and essentially no prior filmmaking experience, Omar Ali Khan does a commendable job delivering the goods. This guy knows and loves horror movies and that passion is felt in every scene.

Hell's Ground has been released by TLA as part of their Danger After Dark collection. Technically, it's a fine disc that looks and sounds extremely good considering the low budget nature of the flick. Omar Ali Khan delivers a lively and energetic commentary full of interesting tidbits about the production, Pakistan and the Pakistani film industry, his struggles with the censor board, and more. Other extras include a Q&A session from a screening at LUMS University in Pakistan, a "making of" documentary entitled Ice Cream Zombieland that further demonstrates that the director is ambitious, hard-working and extremely knowledgeable about horror movies, a music video (unfortunately for one of the least enjoyable songs on the otherwise fantastic soundtrack), and trailers for this and other Danger After Dark releases.

Hell's Ground isn't as outrageously off-the-wall as some of the vintage movies unearthed by the Mondo Macabro label. It is, however, a great deal of fun and a remarkably assured directorial debut for Omar Ali Khan. I'm excited by this new venture for Mondo Macabro and can't wait to see what they do next. I wish them nothing but success... but selfishly hope they don't produce something so successful that they abandon the DVD label to pursue filmmaking full-time. Hey, I need to get my Indonesian martial arts fix someplace!

Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/B+

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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