They Found Hell, which premiered last night on the SyFy channel, deserves a lot of credit. In the tradition of the best grindhouse films (and, make no mistake, this was definitely a grindhouse film even if it was made for TV), They Found Hell delivers exactly what it promises. The title tells us that “they” will find Hell and that’s exactly what happens.
“They” refers to a group of college students who, through some questionable use of science, manage to not only open up a portal into Hell but get sucked into it as well. One student does manage to avoid getting sucked into the portal but he turns out to be pretty ineffective. When he goes to the local crazy professor (James Sobol Kelly), he tells him what has happened, and then suggests maybe calling the police. (I assume so that the police could read Hell its rights?) The professor responds by tying the student up. The professor has a plan of his own.
As for the students actually went down the portal … well, they’re in Hell. One student insists that there’s no such thing as Hell and therefore, this must all be a dream. Of course, he’s the first to die. This, of course, leads to an interesting theological question: if an atheist dies in Hell, does he just come back to life? I mean, he’s already in Hell. What else can be done to him?
Anyway, the remaining students soon find themselves split up and each exploring a different section of Hell. And this is really where the movie triumphed because this was a very convincing and very memorable Hell. One student found himself in a desolate forest and ended up getting attacked by a bunch of vines. Another found herself wandering through the hallways of what appeared to be the ruins of a Tuscan castle. Another student found himself in a burning city while two others found themselves chained to a wall while a pendulum swung back and forth. (I assume they were in the Edgar Allan Poe Wing of Hell.) It was all surprisingly well-done and quite creepy.
At first, it seemed that Hell was nearly deserted and I guess we should be happy about that. (I mean, humanity must be doing something right if there’s hardly anyone on the streets of Hell.) But, as we quickly learn, the students are not alone. There are lizard creatures that jump through windows. There are snarling dogs that eat men who have been tied to the trees in a dark forest. And, of course, there’s the succubus…
And then there’s Charon, the boatman. In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman who takes souls across the River Styx. Of course, he’ll only take you if you can pay the toll. Charon’s always been one of my favorite mythological characters so I was definitely excited when he made an appearance here, looking all spooky and ghastly.
When They Found Hell started, I noticed that a lot of Hell seemed to look like other horror movies. There were some scenes that had a Saw feel to them. And then there were others that felt like they could have been lifted from a zombie movie. At first, I assumed the film was just ripping off other horror films and I was totally okay with that. But, as we discover, there’s actually a very clever reason why the various sections of Hell resemble other horror movies. I’m not going to spoil it but it really is pretty clever.
And really, that’s a great description of They Found Hell. It’s a surprisingly clever little horror film, one that is full of spooky atmosphere and scary moments. It’s also surprisingly well-acted, with the entire cast bringing a lot of conviction to their roles. This is a fun movie, one that you should definitely watch with a group of your best, snarkiest, and smartest friends.
So, keep an eye out and, the next time that They Found Hell is on SyFy, be sure to watch!