By Freddy Mayhew

Hell, produced by Roland Emmerich (2012, Day After Tomorrow) and directed and co-written by Tim Fehlbaum, is a vision of a post-apocalyptic future that narrows its eyes against the harsh light of the sun. 

It should be quickly said that Hell is a German language film, with English subtitles, and that its frightening moniker is not actually an analogy with the sweltering climate of the underworld but rather the German for bright – although either is applicable to the events that unfold. 

Once nourishing to life on Earth, our yellow orb has become its greatest enemy, raising the temperature on the planet’s surface by ten degrees and pushing life to the limits of survival. 

Those lucky enough to still be alive face an arid, inhospitable environment where water is so scarce it has become a tradable commodity and prolonged exposure to the sun will scorch skin. 

Exactly how and why these conditions have arisen, however, is left to the viewer’s imagination and on a small budget it seems the filmmaker is loath to trouble himself with the details. 

The films central characters, Marie (Hannah Herzsprung), her younger sister Leonie (Lisa Vicari) and their travelling companion Phillip (Lars Eidinger), are making their way to the mountains where, rumour has it, there is still running water to be found. 

When the trio encounter Tom (Stipe Erceg) at a disused petrol station, the film’s pace quickens and it’s not long before all four of them are facing that favourite of the post-apocalyptic genre – cannibalism – head on. 

Overall, Hell’s weaknesses in capitalising on its original premise are prevented from irrevocably crippling it by the strength of acting from its central players, with Herzsprung a very capable lead. 

It is at its best when these characters interact and the start of the film promises much in this department before failing to really deliver. 

Rather than a character-driven survival horror akin to The Walking Dead, Hell turns more towards the simplicity of hill-billy horror and a little more gore and perilous tension might have prompted stronger comparisons with other films of the genre. 

Despite a small budget, the film’s effects are solid, if at times inconsistent – particularly as the camera filter used to portray blinding sunlight is a device that seems to come and go.

 On the whole Hell is a polished production, but one that fumbles in the delivery of an original concept. 

Despite its shortcomings, there’s still enough originality to make Hell a satisfying companion to a night-in with a bag of popcorn, but afterwards you might be left wondering why you didn’t choose to watch The Road instead.

 

RELEASED JULY 2

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