Gehenna: Where Death Lives

2016

Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016)

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Movie Info

Paulina and Tyler visit Saipan to locate the ideal property for their new company resort. After finding the perfect location, they discover a hidden cave on the property and decide to explore with Alan, their local coordinator, and his assistant, Pepe. The cave reveals a long abandoned Japanese military base, dating back to WW2. Further investigation uncovers several dried up corpses, but curiosity outweighs fear and they walk further. From the darkness, an elderly man approaches; a man barely recognizable as human. Horrible deformities ravage his frail body, as if he had been living in the cave for his entire life. Alan panics and pushes the old man backward, sending him crashing into the wall with a force that ends the old man's life. A deafening explosion sends rocks and rubble everywhere. The intensity of the turbulence shakes the entire cave, knocking the group unconscious and seals them in the cave. They wake to find the dead body of the old man has disappeared, as well as the other corpses... Desperate to find an exit, they wander further into cave and encounter more sinister secrets in it depths. As the various sources and clues unwind the cave's mysteries, they'll learn that the most shocking conclusion still awaits them...

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Critic Reviews for Gehenna: Where Death Lives

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (2)

The tedious, derivative supernatural thriller "Gehenna: Where Death Lives" gets off to such a strong start that it takes a while to grasp just how dire the movie actually is.

May 3, 2018 | Full Review…

It's not a total wash, but the eventually dreary mix of vague religious morality and rather ponderous horror suggests Katagiri should pay more attention to script development next time out.

Apr 30, 2018 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

The audience will, whether looking for something deeper or not, most likely be satisfied in some capacity with what they get.

Oct 10, 2018 | Full Review…

There are excellent ideas, effects, performances, and scares, but also an accumulation of clichés and unnecessary details that prevent it from being a great film. With that said, it is worth watching.

Aug 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Clearly, director-cowriter Katagiri's primary goal is to offer up a series of icky freak-out moments loosely strung together by the whiff of a plot.

May 7, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

A good location alone ... does not a good horror movie make.

May 3, 2018 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Gehenna: Where Death Lives

You know, I often get the flack a lot of movies get for relying on computer graphics instead of using practical effects. Particularly in action movies, where blood is added in post. It doesn't make enough of an impact. That's why, for example, when Tarantino does a movie that has some sort of shootout, like Django Unchained, Hateful Eight and Reservoir Dogs, I always get really excited. Because he's not afraid of the visceral nature of the shootout. He's gonna make it as violent as possible and that requires a lot, and I do meant a LOT, of blood squibs. I think the same argument could be made for horror movies, where a lot of what used to be practical has now been substituted by computer graphics. And I'm not saying that computers can't do amazing things, which would be a lie, District 9 is STILL impressive, visually, to this day and it's almost 10 years old by now. I'm just saying that the art of practical make-up and effects is becoming something of a lost art, given that it's more expensive to do it practically when compared to pulling it all off on a computer. This brings us to this movie, which, honestly, from its trailers, didn't really blow me away in the slightest. It looked, somewhat, cheaply made and, conceptually speaking, nothing really grabbed me about the movie. The one thing that did grab me, however, were the make-up effects, which were all practical. This is in large part due to the fact that the director, Hiroshi Katagiri specializes on this aspect. He's done work for The Hunger Games, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Looper and the upcoming Captain Marvel. And, as I understand it, this is his directorial debut. First things first, the movie's make-up effects are strong, but there are some painfully obvious weaknesses. Like when the, quite literally, decrepit old man runs at Alan after they find their way to the subterranean bunker. He is a walking corpse, but the body itself is all done through practical effects and the body does not look good, particularly in movement. It looks like a puppet master pulling the strings to control the body. The movement looks so bad, unnatural and floaty, if that makes sense. They hide this by showing only very brief glimpses when the characters shine a flashlight on him, but you can still notice it. Then, when the old man is pushed against a wall, and they do a wide shot on everyone surrounding the old man, you can clearly see Doug Jones' head is sticking out from this wall that he's hiding behind, propping his head up on the prosthetic body that is in front of the wall. Again, it's very brief, but it's really bad when you do see it. It's not that the body itself looked bad or that the make up on the old man looked bad, but it looked terrible in movement and they should have found a workaround for this to avoid even showing this old man's body. Either that or just cover Doug Jones' entire body in make-up, make his body look wrinkly. That's not impossible to do. Might be more expensive, but it's not impossible. The fact that they didn't reflects badly on Hiroshi Katagiri. Good idea in concept that was poorly executed. That's the only really bad example I can think of, I think the rest of the make-up effects look great. But, quite clearly, great make-up isn't enough to make a movie good. And, honestly, there are a lot of really interesting ideas here, particularly once you get closer to the climax and you start to unravel the mystery. But everything leading up to that isn't great. I will give the movie credits for, at the very least, trying to build up some atmosphere, while still using some jump scares here and there. And an underground bunker, that takes our characters back to 1944 during the Japanese occupation, is certainly a creepy enough setting to use in your film. The problem is that, once again, the horror isn't exactly good enough to recommend. I give them props for attempting to rely on more than jump scares, but the horror isn't that good either. While this is a theme that I've seen played out before, the bunker ends up using the characters' dark past to drive them to the breaking point. Paulina's son drowned six years prior to the film's events, David's sister died in an accident that may have been his fault. There's a hint of what Tyler's past may have been, but you never get any concrete answers. The acting is wildly inconsistent. When I say wildly inconsistent, I mean mostly below average. And that is all thanks to Sean Sprawling as Pepe, who serves as Alan's guide/assistant/manservant. I'm sorry, I'm certain Sean is a lovely man, but he is just fucking awful as Pepe. His accent is so fucking bad and his manner of speaking is so forceful. Honestly, Sean Sprawling's performance in this movie is reminiscent of Hector Jimenez in Nacho Libre (he was Nacho's tag team partner). Hector's character was supposed to be funny, Pepe wasn't. And then, later on, when Pepe gets possessed or something and he's actually treated seriously, like a threat, and it's so fucking laughably bad. Like I said, Pepe's manner of speaking feels completely forceful, like Pepe himself is actually faking the accent for one reason or another. You're just waiting for him to drop the act and speak with a thick Brooklyn accent or something of the sort. That moment never comes. Not to mention his stupid hair which, on top of the terrible accent, makes it even more impossible to take him seriously. Maybe Sean is actually a decent enough actor, who knows, but his performance here was just absolutely dreadful. This was not a character he should have played, because he doesn't have the talent to do it without making the entire thing look and feel like a joke. It really feels like he was trying to imitate Hector Jimenez, who's not even super famous himself, so it boggles the mind that he'd want to imitate someone who's not even that famous. The only people who are bound to get it are people like me. Regardless, it's not like anyone else is great and everyone but the people who played Alan and Paulina have terrible scenes, but the acting is ok all things considered. With that said, the thing that I liked the most about the movie, even more than the make-up FX, was how the movie sort of turned things around in regards to the characters finding their way out of this bunker. As I mentioned before, the energy/spirits inside this bunker use the character's dark past in order to drive them crazy, which makes them more desperate to find a way out of there. This leads to Alan turning against everyone and attempting to kill them so he can be the only one to get out of this bunker alive. But, that's the thing, if he's the last one to live, he's the one who loses, as it were, given the fact that he's gonna spend 'eternity' stuck in this bunker, bound to repeat the same cycle over and over and over again. In fact, remember the old man at the beginning that I mentioned ran at Alan and he pushed him into the wall. That old man WAS Alan and when the old man said to Alan that 'you must die', it was only done as a way to help him escape his inevitable fate of being stuck in this loop forever. The only way to really win and escape this bunker is to die. It's not like this is really that unique of a twist, but I still really liked how they executed it. It's such a shame that the rest of the movie, its horror, its acting and its characters didn't really match up to this twist. I think, if the movie gets positive reviews, it's because of the twist. I hate to generalize, as I'm sure there's people who legitimately enjoyed this movie, but I do think the twist helps a lot in changing the perception of this movie. It is a great twist, because it does make sense within the context of what we are seeing and I like the cyclical nature of everything, how this is gonna keep happening until the end of time, but the movie still isn't great. There's some strong gore in the climax here, when Alan beats Pepe with a shovel, and the movie doesn't cut away as he hits Pepe with it, the effects here are also pretty great and bloody. Plus, I hated Pepe as a character, so I had no problem with the movie getting rid of him. I don't know what else to say, the movie misses the mark on almost everything. It's cheaply made, the characters aren't interesting, the acting is fine, if dragged down by ONE awful performance and the horror isn't mind blowing. The great twist doesn't change the fact that the movie is not good and I wouldn't even feel right calling it average. It's slightly below average and that rating is given to the great twist and some really strong make-up FX. There's no other reason why you should watch this movie, realistically speaking. It's also quite longer than it probably should be, honestly. I would not recommend it, but watch at your own risk. You've been warned.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer

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