25th Apr2018

‘Gehenna: Where Death Lives’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Doug Jones, Lance Henriksen, Patrick Gorman, Simon Phillips, Sean Sprawling, Daniel Joo, Eva Swan, Katherine Taylor, Justin Gordon, Matthew Edward Hegstrom, Mauricio Gomez Amoretti | Written by Hiroshi Katagiri, Nathan Long, Brad Palmer | Directed by Hiroshi Katagiri


I have to admit that what drew me most to Gehenna: Where Death Lives was the appearance of Doug Jones (most recently seen in the Oscar winner The Shape Of Water) in the movie. I suspected it might be just a cameo but it was enough to at least get me interested.

We start with a group of investors head up by Lance Henriksen, in a short cameo via phone call, who are looking for the perfect spot for a new resort. When they seemingly find this, they also find a hidden Japanese bunker from World War 2, which they decide to explore. This is a horror movie, so obviously exploring an abandoned war bunker turns out not to be a very good idea. I actually enjoyed the basic story here. Starting off very simply as mentioned above and evolving with some interesting, if not completely original concepts and ideas. Mixing the characters inner demons with actual Japanese soldiers in a supernatural way, even if you think you’ve seen things like this before, it is at least played out a little differently.

The acting performances are decent from everybody involved. A lot of the characters went from comedy scenes to much more serious moments and in lesser hands this could go horribly wrong. But the actors do very well to not make things look silly. When they are supposed to be scary or threatening, they are. And when they go for laughs, the majority of the time, it’s funny.Unfortunately the original score is very generic horror and doesn’t stand out at all. But what does stand out are the cinematography and visual effects. This is perhaps no surprise when you discover that director Hiroshi Katagiri is much better known as special effects sculptor and designer. Which means the ‘beings’ in Gehenna that are there to haunt and scare the characters, look fantastic.

What is a low budget (approximately $240,000) is spent extremely well, and Katagiri has clearly put a lot of thought and effort into how things look. ‘Creepy Old Man’ played by Doug Jones is, thankfully, very VERY creepy-looking and obviously expertly played by the actor. The best of the make-up and visual effects though is saved for one of the last scenes. A very violent and brutal scene it is, involving a mans face and a spade. Even with close-up camera shots the make-up and practical effects look excellent.

Any negatives in Gehenna aren’t major ones. The claustrophobia of the characters being trapped in an underground bunker that should have been felt, really isn’t at all there. And if I’m being really picky I would have loved to have seen more of the creepy beings that are the most frightening things in the movie by far.

Gehenna: Where Death Lives is an entertaining horror movie, without bringing anything particularly new to the genre. That said it’s an easy and mostly fun way to spend ninety minutes.

*** 3/5

Gehenna: Where Death Lives is released in cinemas across the U.S and on digital on Friday May 4th, distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment.


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