Hell, which means ‘bright’ in German, is a German-Swiss co-production, produced by Roland Emmerich, that tells a tale of near future Earth where humans have to fight for survival after an epic rise in global temperature. Hell‘s dusty, arid climate is traversed by a group of young survivors, whose ultimate aim is to get to the higher ground of the Swiss Alps. On the way they have to overcome various obstacles provided by nature, the terrain or by something more familiar.
Don’t you just love it when you make the right choice on Netflix? It’s one of life’s little victories. I had no idea this movie even existed, which may go some stretch in explaining why I enjoyed it so much. My expectations were non-existent, but that’s definitely not the only reason why it was a hit for me.
Hell has some of the most beautiful cinematography I can think of in recent memory. This low budget fare looks stunning, and every shot and scene appears to be produced within an inch of its life, but it doesn’t look contrived. The production design works in synergy with the cinematography, and the post-apocalypse countryside, as well the heat of the sun, become a character themselves within the movie. These elements all added to the believability of the scenario, which really enabled me to get on board with the characters and their plight. The movie was also nominated for best sound design and won best score at The German Film Awards, and it is easy to understand why.
The first two acts of this movie are gripping. We see new characters brought into the protagonists’ stories, as well as little scenes of character development and tone setting. They have really built up this hot world and thought how to survive in it; water is obviously a life-giver, and they present some clever ways of sourcing it. It’s extremely bleak throughout, but there are some brilliant little moments of humour. The Alps become secondary once we hit the third act, as it becomes a tale of survival against increasingly lowering odds, and while it could be argued Hell is very similar to another European horror film of the last 5 years (if you’ve seen it, you will know), it’s not overly gory and is far more tense and believable. Hell seems to have all the dressings of torture porn, but it plays with audience expectations by avoiding anything overtly gory, and uses smarts to grip the audience rather than blood. The ending is left open to interpretation, but if anyone has seen it we can delve into spoilers on Twitter!
Hell is a brooding, dark and tense survival thriller. It features some awe-inspiring cinematography, fantastic acting and regardless of the plot being very similar to another recent movie, Hell is still its own beast. It’s also Thomas Fehlbaum’s debut, which is a really depressing fact for any aspiring film-makers.