Director: Hiroshi Katagiri
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Katagiri, Nathan Long, Brad Palmer
Cast: Eva Swan, Justin Gordon, Matthew Edward Hegstrom, Simon Phillps, Sean Sprawling, Lance Henriksen
Runtime: 105 mins
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Review by Dave Griffiths
Few first time feature film directors can boast the pedigree of Hiroshi Katagiri, while he may not have ever sat in the director’s chair before Gehenna: Where Death Lives he has worked in the special effects department of big budget films including The Hunger Games, Pirates Of The Caribbean and Looper… oh and he trained under Steven Spielberg. Keeping that in mind there is little wonder Katagiri has decided to create a horror film that rests heavily on suspense and special effects make-up to tell its story.
Katagiri’s directional debut centres around a team sent to Saipan by Morgan (Lance Henriksen – The Terminator) in a bid to find the right area that can be developed into a newly built resort. Leading up the team is Morgan’s right hand woman, Paulina (Eva Swan – The Intruder) and she is joined by a photographer David (Matthew Edward Hegstrom – newcomer) and architect Tyler (Justin Gordon – Before I Wake). Also along on the trip are the locals – the mean spirited land seller Alan (Simon Phillips – Age Of The Living Dead) who loves to make fun of and virtually abuse local guide Pepe (Sean Sprawling – Endeavour). When the group chooses to ignore the warning of one of the locals and decide to explore what they believe is an old WWII tunnel they find themselves face-to-face with an ancient evil.
Films like Gehenna: Where Death Lives are a rare commodity. Many first time film directors often try to use crowd funding to get their debut film made… and sadly sometimes it shows as the audience can normally tell right away that the film has lacked things as simple as enough script readings. That certainly can’t be said for Gehenna a film that captivates and takes its audience on a claustrophobic journey into what are basically haunted tunnels.
As a filmmaker Katagiri also doesn’t make another often seen rookie mistake and show his hand too early. Part of the fun of Gehenna: Where Death Lives is trying to piece together all the pieces and working out exactly what kind of evil the group have stumbled upon. The fact that evil takes many on many forms and faces, thanks to the creative mind of Katagiri and his special effects team, means the audience is kept on the edge of their seat as they can never predict what is around each corner or in each room.
The film also has a powerful subtext about large businesses moving into an indigenous area and wanting to exploit it for their financial gain and this is further enhanced by Katagiri and his fellow script-writers making the character of Alan such a nasty piece of work. It isn’t often that you find yourself hoping that one of the characters on the screen dies a painful death but when it comes to Alan and the way he treats Pepe you find yourself hoping that this ancient evil delivers him a very painful death indeed.
Acting wise Gehenna: Where Death Lives is made up of a cast who do all that their director asks of them. Eva Swan does enough to suggest that she has rosy future ahead of her while youngsters Justin Gordon and Matthew Edward Hegstrom also do more than enough to make the film work. Fans of cult cinema will also be impressed by a cameo by the legendary Lance Henriksen which goes even further to cement this film’s pedigree.
Gehenna: Where Death Lives is one of those fun horror films to watch – a film that is guaranteed to have you jumping in your seat from time to time. Just be warned though it is also a film that may cause some nightmares afterwards as Katagiri’s team really have done a great job developing some pretty nasty evils throughout the film. Watch the film and then dream about it later.
Gehenna: Where Death Lives is screening at A Night Of Horror on Saturday 26th November. You can purchase tickets here.