‘hellhole‘ is a new horror movie from Netflix that has gone unnoticed in the halloween season due to the avalanche of genre titles that invade the platforms on those dates. While platform users watched the excellent anthology series ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities this other novelty was buried among other titlesbut it has nothing to waste for fans of gothic and occultism.
This modest proposal is led by Bartosz M. Kowalski, the author of the slasher’No one sleeps in the woods tonight‘ and its sequel, which mixed gore, comedy and meta-terror without much luck, which was also responsible for the very disturbing ‘Playground’ (2016), with what seems to be a uA versatile filmmaker that adjusts to the demand of Netflix to get cheap titles, shot in a short time and with certain visual guarantees.
The monastery of the damned
Now he is back with ‘Hellhole’, whose title in Polish ‘Ostatnia Wieczerza’ means “the last supper”, with which it can be verified that Catholicism plays a fundamental part in its mythology. Written by Kowalski himself along with Mirella Zaradkiewicz. The story is set in 1987, although before we witness a prologue in 1957, in a remote part of Poland, when an anguished Catholic priest runs up the altar of a church to try to kill a baby whose skin has a particular mark, which which makes us think of a type of antichrist.
The scene looks like a mix of the prologue and the end of ‘The Day of the Beast‘, although it doesn’t show the same type of black humor (for the moment) of the Álex de la Iglesia film. The cleric is shot dead by police before we cut to a scene 30 years ago when undercover cop Marek (Piotr Zurawski) arrives at a series of church buildings in the midst of rain and cawing crows, with trees with twisted branches and all the key elements of classic gothic cinema. The man is received by the prior Andrzej (Olaf Lubaszenko), who shows the presumed priest an abbey.
What he finds inside is that the abbey is nothing more than a kind of clinic for the possessed. Cut off from the outside world, they record exorcisms and report back to the Vatican. Marek delves into monastic life and tries to explain the recent mysterious disappearance of several women, but soon realizes there is no way out of the monastery. At first, ‘Hellhole’ works like a variation of the cinema of pure possessions, with exorcisms and ritualsbut the film is twisting towards the cinema of occult and secret cults.
A return to the Italian terrors of the 80s
Marek investigates a deeper evil in the monastery entering clues of religious terror that begins as ‘The name of the rose‘ but it converges with pieces like ‘dare the devil‘ (1989), ‘Dark Waters’ (1993) or ‘the nun‘ (2018). Kowalski does a good job of creating a mournful atmosphere of danger and captures the idea of an evil that permeates every ancient brick of the building’s hidden places, its gloomy passageways, candlelit rooms, and cells that house the tormented. It’s that kind of movie.
It’s like an Italian exploitation version of Umberto Eco’s adaptation, with its supernatural elements, diabolical presence and some gory details. It is not the most orthodox and exciting film in its use of tension, the idea is not original, it does not want to be the film of the year, nor is it going to leave a mark due to its visual ensemble, but who loves the Italian supernatural movies of the eightiesravings like ‘Terror in the convent’ (1981) or ‘demonia‘ (1990) by Lucio Fulci are before a little gem that no one dares to do for fear of ridicule.
Perhaps the greatest asset of ‘Hellhole’ lies in its unexpected ending, a choreography with apocalyptic overtones, unapologetically showing what many others tend to avoid, a moment that gives more than what can be asked of a small film of these characteristics and that it fulfills the rule that a crescendo towards a good climax can elevate a more ordinary film and completes a nihilistic monastic nightmare, with some unexpected moments of black humor that adapt to the lack of scruples in adopting satanic horror tropes with dignity. that the covers of Creepy or Vampus taught us.