I’m not sure how many horror films I’ve seen. I’m sure many of us have no idea the amount of horrific entertainment we’ve consumed. The genre is vast and following one string just leads to a whole new web of wonderful weirdness. As with any genre, certain paths are well worn. At the top of that list in the horror field is slashers and zombies. So I find it wonderful that even though the crux of Hell’s Ground concerns both of those tropes, it still manages to feel fresh thanks to watching the old familiar through the eyes of another culture.
A group of youngsters lie to their parents and jump into a magical airbrushed beauty of a van and head out to see a rock concert. Roxy is a hawt spoiled jerk who surprisingly treats her friends well enough to make her not unbearable, OJ is a lazy stoner just looking to have some fun, Vick (aka Mr. Smooth) is the man behind the wheel and seems to be the de facto leader. Oddly enough he doesn’t act like the conventional douche his American counterpart would be and remains brave and loyal to the small group of buds. Simon is the soft spoken scholarship kid who comes from a poor family but the group treats him as one of their own. Finally we have the shy kind soul Ayesha who was obviously peer pressured into going along and (minimally) misbehaving with the gang. So, already gaining a one up on the western style, this group of friends actually acts like a pack of people who want to be together.
They take a quick detour on the road to rock and roll bliss to stop by the world famous Deewana’s Tea Shop. Deewana is played by Dracula in Pakistan‘s Rehan. Of course he is there to deliver a warning. Seems he believes that these kids have strayed from the righteous path and are now heading straight on down the road to hell. Ayesha seems to be the only one who takes the guest star’s warning to heart but manages to silence that troubled voice and keep on keeping on with her buddies. It’s about now that things start going to shit.
Throughout the movie we’ve been hearing various reports of contaminated drinking water and a strange plague hitting the countryside. It turns out said contaminated water has the nasty effect of turning humans into flesh eating zombies. I mean, did you think it would do something else? The kids, fearing that they’re running late thanks to their tea shop break, jump on a short cut to save some time. Something doesn’t sit well with OJ and he flees the van to go chuck something up. As he hurls into a nearby stream, something bites him. Uh oh.
The zombies attack the van but the group manages to escape. Unfortunately OJ’s health is on the steady decline, Night has fallen making navigation near impossible and panic is beginning to set in. Vick stumbles across an obviously unhinged Rasputin looking man worshipping in a makeshift creepy tent in the middle of nowhere. The man claims that he can lead them back to a familiar path and forces himself into their van. The bearded psychopath does what bearded psychopaths do and threatens to drink their blood when they have no water for him. He’s forcefully booted out when he whips out a severed head from his burlap sack and starts screaming. Upon escaping the mad man they run him over and leave him for dead. I’d like to say I would have pulled over and checked on the obviously ill man but then I’d be lying to you and I don’t want to do that. I probably would have reversed over him a few more times just to make sure he wouldn’t be jumping out of the shadows anytime in the future.
Just when it seems this shitstorm couldn’t get any messier the car breaks down and this puts our heroes on a life ending collision with Baby. A quick opening murder has already introduced us to the film’s main villain. Baby is a blood stained burqa clad man with an excellent choice in weapons. Vick goes for help and comes across a rundown workshop in the middle of the jungle. Then he’s quickly taken down by Baby. Further fright and concern causes the group to disperse and get separated, which makes them all easy targets. Baby starts wielding a medieval flail and certain family secrets are revealed when Roxy flees into the hopefully safe arms of an elderly woman living near the workshop. More flesh is torn apart and the odds of survival drop drastically low for everyone still standing.
Baby is a formidable killer, beautifully realized and completely belonging to the country that birthed him. It’s simple and wonderful in equal measure. The zombie story doesn’t really add much to the plot but manages to break any tedium that could have taken the viewer out of the damn thing as the kids head to their destiny and offers the sting in the tail. Butcher shop violence has ya feeling right at home and I still can’t get over how awesome that flail is as a weapon.
Even as recent as 2007 it was difficult getting your hands on titles from this neck of the woods. Mondo Macabro had released a handful (they produced this bad boy as well) and the grey market offered up some pricey options for low quality boots of South Asian weirdness. Nowadays there’s a good amount streaming and uploaded on YouTube (especially if you don’t mind an absence of subtitles) but when Hell’s Ground came out it was not only the first splatter film from the region I had ever seen, it was also the first splatter film from Pakistan (the censorship that hits the genre over there is notoriously strict). So even though it’s all so damn familiar it still feels so damn fresh. Damn I love this flick. 8/10