Gehenna: Where Death Lives is a 2016 horror film from Hiroshi Katagiri, written by Katagiri, Nathan Long and Brad Palmer. The film stars Eva Swan, Justin Gordon, Simon Phillips, Sean Sprawling and Matthew Edward Hegstrom. Gehenna is where horror lives.
Paulina (Swan) works for a resort company looking to open a new resort in Saipan. She is joined by Tyler(Gordon) an architect and Dave(Hegstrom) on the trip to Saipan. Allen(Philips), the man who found the property and looking to sell it, along with Pepe(Sprawling), his local assistant, bring the trio to the property along the beautiful coast of Saipan. They soon discover an old World War II bunker used by the Japanese. They enter trying to find out if this bunker will effect their future resort. They enter the dark bunker where death lives.
The Movie (4.5/5)
To start off, the film is very good, but there are some issues with the film. Lance Henriksen and Doug Jones are both boasted in the cast of the film and seem like they would be major players in the film. Henriksen is a basic cameo at the beginning of the film. He appears for less then five minutes and is barely mentioned again. Jones is on screen much more and is great but, as per usual, he is under heavy prosthetic and appears sparingly. The biggest problem with the entire film is the length. At a run time of over an hour and forty minutes there are sections of the film that drags. The middle of the film deals with a lot of back tracking that isn’t really needed. A good chunk of the middle of the film should have been left on the cutting room floor.
The cast and characters with one exception are all very well done. Pepe and Allen’s interactions are great with the pair stealing part of the movie for themselves. The writing helps, but Sprawling and Phillips knock it out of the park with their chemistry on screen. Gordon and Swan have their own sort of chemistry, that isn’t as good as Sprawling and Phillips’, still brings the characters to life. The character of Dave and the actor of Hegstrom are the odd men out. Hegstrom seems almost lost in the shuffle with the other actors to play off one another, while he is the third wheel. The character, Dave, doesn’t fair much better feeling like the one who is just there to die first(Spoiler Alert, he is the first one to die).
The plot of the film takes an older trope and while it doesn’t turn it on its head, it does add some twists and turns that make Gehenna feel like a breath of fresh air. The idea of dumb white people walking into a cursed land is par for the course at this point in horror films. While that is what happens in Gehenna, once they are inside that cursed land is where things feel different. The bunker really brings the film together as it is dark, cramped and creepy as opposed to the beautiful sights of Saipan that were shown earlier. The props and special effects all look fantastic and help the film come to life. The clothing and sets of the Japanese soldiers in the bunker seem spot on. The gore, blood and bodies all look realistic. The most noticeable special effect that looks great is the Old Man(played by Jones). Just short of a shambling corpse it moves and looks real. It is frightening to see this shambling body charging towards the characters.
Some Extra thoughts: Pepe is the breakout star of the film. The ending is top notch, exactly what one should want out of a horror film. Not everything ends with sunshine and rainbows. The mystery aspects help move it along, but far to long of a film. First “death” is thirty minutes in. Death two is over an hour into the film. Flashbacks are great, the men who play the Japanese soldiers Masashi Odate, Nori Uchida, Yasunari Akita and Keisuke Akizawa. Odate is in the film the most and does a spectacular job.
The audio is great. Filming in a bunker must have been tough, but no bad echos or anything like that. All the audio comes out crisp and clean. The music just helps set the scene better, overall the audio is fantastic.
Gehenna: Where Death Lives doesn’t change the game of horror films, but it does show that even old tropes can have some new trips. A good watch or most horror fans, but the length is the only real downfall of the film.