I was not the audience this was aimed at. Not the most positive way to open up, but at least I’m being honest. I don’t really do ghost/spooky place type movies. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, just not this time. At least I think they are ghosts in this. It’s hard to explain without spoiling, though it would probably be hard to explain with spoilers. Gehenna is one of those type movies.
Gehenna “stars” Lance Henriksen, Doug Jones, Simon Phillips, Sean Sprawling, Eva Swan, Justin Gordon & Matthew Edward Hegstrom. And here we have my first major gripe. Promotional material and online sources site Lance and Doug as starring, but Lance is in the movie literally less than a minute (I clocked it) and Doug, well, has less screen time than the promos would lead me to believe. Or maybe I don’t understand what starring means.
The plot is simple but has potential. The group of aforementioned people (Minus Lance and Doug) are surveying some land when they become trapped in a WW2 bunker. Other things happen but all you need to know is a group of desperate people are trapped and spooky type things are happening. Now I could talk about line deliveries, or camera cuts, or a million small things, but I want to cut some slack because its clear everyone was trying here, and that counts a lot with me.
I will say Sean Sprawling may not have been a great choice. He’s fine in the sidekick role, but not so much in his secondary role. That and his accent goes back and forth noticeably. So, the setting. Being trapped in a confined place can be good for building tension and paranoia, and panic. It should be claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Here, though, it’s really not. The tunnels are pretty spacious and fairly lit, and they seem to go on forever. There’s space to breathe, and that’s a bad thing here. Less lighting and less space would ramp up the discomfort.
And I gotta address the ghosts. They don’t make a lot of sense at the end of the movie. I’m not going to spoil the end, but you’ll see what I mean. I’ll just say this is why I don’t like ghost movies and why this movie was ultimately not my cup of tea. Because ghost movies have either no rules or they play fast with the rules. Finally, the movie runs a bit long. Instead of the tension building up it just kinda shuffles towards an ending.
However, there are places where this shines better than many (arguably) better movies. Mostly in the makeup and gore effects. Not that the deaths are themselves super gory, but that’s spoiler territory. This is not a terrible movie, it is stuck as average. It’s held back by a confusing mismash plot, awkward line delivery and a predictable ending. An okay VOD rental if this sounds like your type of thing.
Gehenna : Where Death Lives is in theaters across the U.S and on digital Friday, 5/4 distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment.