Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016)
Directed by: Hiroshi Katagiri
Written by: Brad Palmer, Hiroshi Katagiri, Nathan Long
Starring: Doug Jones, Eva Swan, Justin Gordon, Lance Henriksen, Masashi Odate, Matthew Edward Hegstrom, Sean Sprawling, Simon Phillips
GEHENNA: WHERE DEATH LIVES (2016)
Directed by Hiroshi Katagiri
Businesswoman Paulina visits Saipan on behalf of her employer to scout the location for their newest holiday resort. She’s joined by architect Tyler and photographer Dave and meets up with broker Alan and his assistant-cum-dogsbody Pepe who show them round the exotic location earmarked for development. However idyllic the forest location seems to be for their planned venture, their plans aren’t exactly running smoothly with the locals airing their anger of foreigners claiming and desecrating their sacred land. Promising that the locals aren’t a problem, Alan guides Paulina and the group around the tropical paradise and all looks perfect until they come across a WWII bunker that wasn’t on the map nor on Alan’s radar. Refusing to make a deal with Alan until the bunker has been inspected, Paulina and her crew, followed by Alan and Pepe, venture into the mysterious bunker to see how far and how big of a thorn in the side of the development the bunker might be.
Inside the bunker are all the signs that it was used during the war, with even a few skeletons propped up inside, but what the group don’t realise is that there maybe someone still living in there; a bunker which holds secrets about the island and the individuals who inhabit it that only death may escape…
GEHENNA: WHERE DEATH LIVES is one of those movies that entices you from the get-go. It opens a little wooden with a cameo from Lance Henriksen before it eventually settles into its sun-kissed storyline of rude foreigners coming and taking what’s not theirs – essentially taking a giant dump on the locals and their traditions which date back to hundreds of years. We all know that greedy corporate companies will stop at nothing to get what they want, in this case a holiday resort complete with golf course, and early on you hope that these people get what they deserve, particularly arrogant Brit, Alan, who bosses poor local, Pepe, around. Despite being downtrodden and spoken to like dirt, Pepe brings most of the comedy and laughs with his bumbling but good-natured attitude, even in the face of strict orders from Alan, though his allegiance to the likes of Alan and the others leaves him a little shunned by his own people.
The sights and sounds of the stunning island is one that I felt totally at ease with – maybe it’s just me longing for a beach holiday – but when the film moves from tropical palm trees to dusty bunker rooms, you can instantly feel the shift in tone. This bunker is more than what it appears. A sinister vibe spreads throughout the rooms til the group stare face-to-face with it; a moment that will change all their lives forever. This glimpse into fear itself is the moment most horror fans will undoubtedly guess the ending of the ‘plot twist’ of the movie and with it being so obvious so early on, I couldn’t help but feel some kind of disappointment with the film refusing to offer any twists to change my guess. Despite being easy to fathom, pleasure is still taken from how our characters get to the end point with most of the film taking place within the bunker. Only in its final length does the film become a little tedious, relying on tropes and character relationships to secure the ending, something which I’d be waiting to arrive since the second I guessed it in the beginning of the film.
Regardless of its flaws, GEHENNA: WHERE DEATH LIVES manages to capture the eeriness and struggle of life in the bunker and very much reminded me of British Nazi bunker flick Outpost though Nazis are nowhere to be seen in this particular outing. The characters are all likeable, even Alan (Simon Phillips) in his own arsehole way, with Sean Sprawling stealing the show as lovable Pepe.
Short on surprises but with a positive eye for scene setting, GEHENNA: WHERE DEATH LIVES is one of those horrors that carries enough charm to warrant a watch.