Gehenna Where Death Lives (2016) represents an absolute rock-bottom among trashy low-budget horrors, made by talentless filmmakers.
I believe it’s safe to assume that “Gehenna: Where Death Lives” is not on the watchlist of the vast majority of film buffs. Heck, I don’t know which synapse in my brain froze for a second and made me watch it. However, since I did waste my time, why not have some fun at least and let the hate flow.
What is Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016) about?
Hiroshi Katagiri’s film follows a bunch of employees of some random (I’m pretty sure it remains nameless) company travels to Saipan in Phillipines. When the group stumbles upon a secret tomb, the drive to explore is stronger than fear of what could be encountered there. Once they enter the forgotten sanctuary, things get rough.
In the beginning of Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016), Katagiri showcases an old man (speaking pidgin Spanish) who is tortured by a bunch of locals. It appears to be a strange ritual, which ends with the shaman peeling off the man’s face. That’s a pretty graphic kick-off, but as Alfred Hitchcock said, a film should start with an avalanche.
We then quickly jump to the modern times. Only then director Hiroshi Katagiri introduces the protagonists. This is a motley crew of Z-list actors, who struggle whenever a second of silence creeps around the corner. Among them is a corny camera man, a loser, who got lost on his way to the set of American Pie, a show-off type who speaks Japanese in order to get laid and a blonde girl, who is between being corporate and a tourist. The party is also joined by a grumbling guy with a beard and a local, chubby guide, whom will be given a special treatment in this article.
The only common ground for these characters is their hardwired shallowness
I’m deliberately describing all of these characters, to pinpoint the mess introduced right from the start in Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016). Katagiri’s goal was to bring in a lot of varying characters, who would ornament this lackluster story, and add some degree of colorfulness to it. But all things considered, they’re nothing else but a nightmare to follow. Almost all of the dialogues are painful to listen to, because none of these actors can deliver the lines with even half-baked confidence. Without proper character development either, they’re even less than the usual fodder meat designed in every other horror movie.
Nonetheless, acting is just a percent of what’s bad in Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016)
The main problem of Katagiri’s film is that it’s not scary. At all. It draws a lot from other horror siblings, yet this flick fails miserably to extract “the cool” things. It’s like taking several spices and ingredients to make a unique sauce and then pouring a liter of water into the pot. Sounds good, doesn’t work.
Which films inspired Katagiri in particular? Spanish Rec (2007) and its sequels for starters, then Catacombs (2007), The Descent (2005)… and a few more labyrinth/tunnel-themed movies. The point is that Katagiri doesn’t bother to have his own style. The light and shadow orchestra is boring, copying everything that the genre has known for years. The soundtrack is bland, the plot chaotic. And even despite the unnerving setting – with catacombs and monsters lurking from the inside – Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016) can’t spark even one genuinely frightening moment.
Even the creature the audience should fear (played by Doug Jones… yes, the water creature from “The Shape Of Water“) is laughable, as it crawls in the darkness or popping out of nowhere.
Read about the 10 most expected horror movies in 2018.
On top of things comes the anti-climactic character played by Sean Sprawling
Finally, there is our moustache-y guide, who deserves special applause. Sean Sprawling, the actor playing the character, is the most solid material for a Razzie in years. The levels of cringe that Sprawling has achieved in Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016) are simply outstanding. Every time he appeared on the screen – whenever he was possessed, naked or just being himself – I was left speechless. Each line, each gesture – it all seemed so uncomfortable, like in a bad, bad sitcom.
Gehenna is what the audience goes through while watching this pile of crap. I tortured myself so that you can limit your torments to reading my review. And believe, this is nothing compared to what Katagiri has up his sleeve. If that’s the way he debuted, we might be seeing a new trash-horror king rising.
Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016) – Culturally Hated or Loved?
An atrocious exercise in copy-and-paste from many other films, this particular flick has a deeply one-note, cheap quality to it. Avoid at all costs.
Hate Grade: 8/10
Director: Hiroshi Katagiri
Writer: Hiroshi Katagiri, Brad Palmer, Nathan Long
Cast: Doug Jones, Eva Swan, Lance Henriksen, Justin Gordon
Music: Yuan Liu
Cinematographer: Yohei Tateishi
If you liked Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016), here’s a few better films to watch:
- Rec (2007) – a found footage classic, which nails the “in medias res” pattern,
- The Tunnel (2011) – another found footage flick, which has the similar vibe of exploring dark mazes filled with dark entities,