Posted: 06/22/2008

 

Hell’s Ground

(2007)

by Jef Burnham



Coming to DVD June 24 from TLA Releasing and Danger After Dark.


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Hell’s Ground is the first “splatter flick” from Pakistan. This unprecedented cinematic experience is the brainchild of film fanatic Omar Ali Khan, who produced the film using the money from his chain of ice cream shops, The Hot Spot. The film is such a diversion from the cinema of Pakistan that only after months of fighting was it finally screened in its country of origin.

A combination zombie/slasher film, Hell’s Ground delivers gore and weirdness in abundance. A group of five teenagers on a trip to see the most hardcore band in Pakistan, the Rockin Gwars, find themselves first in the middle of a zombified country town, and then at the murderous hands of a burqa-clad psychopath. Throw in some satire on the conflict between Pakistan’s modern youth and their more traditional predecessors, and you’ve got just as much gore, yet more substance than 2003’s premier French slasher film, High Tension. We never get to hear the Rockin Gwars, but I greatly enjoyed the film’s soundtrack of some other, seriously ’70s-sounding Pakistani music. The music adds an atmosphere of badass that Tarantino strives so hard to create.

The influence of American horror films on writer/director Omar Ali Khan is apparent. As an avid horror fan myself, I noticed shades of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Motel Hell, Night of the Living Dead, Sleepaway Camp and Mother’s Day, to name a few. Most prominent are the similarities to Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the teenagers travel in a large van, pick up a crazy hitchhiker and, in terms of the technical side, the sounds of gore are often played up as opposed to the visual to create a more Hitchcockian terror. And, of course, who wouldn’t notice the similarity between Leatherface and Hell’s Ground’s killer, what with Leatherface’s mask and chainsaw, and this killer with his burqa and medieval flail?

One incredibly interesting thing about the film is that the characters switch between speaking Urdu and English so often that it occurs sometimes three or four times a sentence. Being that I am not bilingual, I have always been amazed by the ability of those who can switch so frequently between languages; to have this captured in the film with Urdu and English gives it an added authenticity that they could not have achieved if they had spoken only one of the languages throughout.

The DVD special features include director’s commentary, a documentary, interviews and speeches from the Pakistani premiere, a music video and the film’s original trailer.

Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic in Chicago.



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