Hellhole review – why is this religious horror interesting but dull?

October 27, 2022
Amanda Guarragi 3
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service
2.5

Summary

It is a standard religious horror with a twist that isn’t that engaging. Kowalski’s direction was strong in the first half, but the story wasn’t strong enough. It fizzles in the end, even though the creature that comes out of it looks interesting.

Loading JustWatch data...
2.5

Summary

It is a standard religious horror with a twist that isn’t that engaging. Kowalski’s direction was strong in the first half, but the story wasn’t strong enough. It fizzles in the end, even though the creature that comes out of it looks interesting.

October 2022 saw the release of the Netflix horror film Hellhole — this is our official spoiler-free review.

In 1987 Poland, a police officer investigating mysterious disappearances infiltrates a remote monastery and discovers a dark truth about its clergy. The horror film, Hellhole, was co-written and directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski, and he creates a sinister atmosphere from the very beginning of the film. We see a priest about to kill a baby with an odd mark on his chest. From that scene, we know that the baby will be special, and like all religious horror films, there’s a tie to the devil.

Kowalski then flashes forward to the present day in a Sanitorium. A new priest named Marek (Piotr Zurawski) goes to the clergy because they are looking for an exorcist. The Sanitorium is known for exorcism, and they vet the priests coming into the area.

The lighting in Hellhole is dark, and it feels eerie when they walk through the halls of the Sanitorium. The priests all come together to eat in the main hall and serve something rather disgusting. Marek doesn’t take well to the meal, and weird things start happening to him when he’s alone in his room. He doesn’t digest the food properly, and he starts hallucinating. We find out that Marek is an undercover cop sent to investigate the Sanitorium because eight women have gone missing due to exorcisms. The only way the cops would be able to get in and talk to Prior Andrzej (Olaf Lubaszenko) is by pretending to be a priest. He finds out the issues with this clergy and how unconventional their methods are.

It’s interesting to see how the priests conduct these exorcisms because they look different than others we’ve seen on screen. The practical effects in Hellhole worked for the most part, as the young girl thrashing about while chained to the bed was scary. Even the perspective change with the video camera to show the footage of her possession was an interesting choice.

Even though we can commend Kowalski for making something interesting, the investigation was a bit dull as the story moved slowly. Malek also finds out that the exorcisms are fake, which makes everything even more suspicious.

Some great moments will make you feel gross because of what happens to Malek each time he eats a meal with them. But by the time we find out that Malek is the chosen one and the clergy wants to perform a final ritual, it’s too late in the film for the pieces to work.

Towards the end of Hellhole, the clergy becomes more sadistic and does perform the ritual on Malek. The creature design looked great, and seeing something like that coming from the depths of hell to tie the film together in its religious themes worked as well. It is a standard religious horror with a bit of twist that isn’t that engaging. Kowalski’s direction was strong in the first half, but the story wasn’t strong enough. It fizzles in the end, even though the creature that comes out of it looks interesting.

What did you think of the Netflix horror film Hellhole? Comment below.

More Stores on Hellhole

3 thoughts on “Hellhole review – why is this religious horror interesting but dull?

  • October 30, 2022 at 7:06 am
    Permalink

    I TOTALLY disagree with this review. As usual, critics trying to sound smarter that they are. The religious, gore and psychological horror works really well, the acting is actually good for a change, and the director’s choices are quite interesting. I thought one of the best parts of the film is its finale, that comes off as not unexpected, but with so many movies streaming online today, it is hard to find something that is completely original. The finale is still very strong, and the visual, FX and narrative elements the director uses work fantastically. It is a movie I will remember for a long time; I watch a lot of horror movies and this one is quite original and memorable. It is very entertaining, it keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the artistic direction and production design are excellent. I quite recommend it. Horror lovers will really like it.

  • October 30, 2022 at 11:42 am
    Permalink

    So to begin: this movie? (Sic). Begins with a familiar trope for most who’ve enjoyed horror for a decade or two. Then we’re launched into 1987, into communist Poland and a man, Marek entering a monastery. Cue bleak, grimy, badly lit and atmospheric gloom. Setting is great, baroque looking edifice sprawling right and left. Still good. A motley assembly of sleazy suspicious monks in sleazy and dirty robes are shuffling around this candlelit tomb of a building, here I began to worry: it’s mentioned, as Marek has his cigarettes confiscated, that there’s no phone nor electricity. Yet there’s no shortage of candles and presumably those whose job must be to run around replacing and lighting said candles constantly. Anyone who’s ever lit a candle knows they burn down, and burn down fast. From there we get to see our wannabe hero subjected to highly odd meals that resemble flesh. Most viewers will get it right away, he witnesses an exorcism that is rote by any standards. He then discovers that it’s faked too. From here it’s clearly evident what points will transpire. He has disturbing visions, vomits blood and flies, pulls a tooth out of his mouth. Gets double crossed by an obviously duplicitous dirtbag, and then it’s all downhill from there. He’s the chosen one etc. that the ritual doesn’t work renders the end obvious. He is also the innocent one to die, not the virgin. And in his death the evil will be reborn. There is too little engaging narrative for this 90 minutes. A common problem with Netflix produced stuff. Actors do their best as does the set design, photography if a tad too dark for ease of viewing, but no amount of accessorising can make up for a flaccid screenplay and little to no action. Hammer Horror did schlock so much better.

  • November 12, 2022 at 10:03 pm
    Permalink

    It was slow but imho it did build up to a great finale. I enjoyed the movie and kudos to the well made creature from hell!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.