It's nothing new for the film festival circuit to be alive with the buzz of the next big foreign horror sensation. Much to the contrary, it's actually quite common to overhear genre fans discussing how they are eagerly awaiting the next brutal European survival horror romp, creepy Asian ghost revenge tale, bizarre Japanese psychedelic head trip, or gory Pakistani zombie/slasher film. Okay, go ahead and take a second look, but yes, you did read that correctly. I did say Pakistani zombie/slasher film. That's where Hell's Ground (Zibahkhana) comes in, the first foray into film production by Mondo Macabro, better known as the company responsible for releasing 'The Wildside of World Cinema on DVD.' Billed affectionately as 'Pakistan's first gore film' and clocking in with a run time under 90 minutes, you can pretty much gather from the start that it?s going to be a wild ride indeed.
After lying to their parents about their destination, five teenagers pile into a rental van and head out on an overnight trek to see Pakistan?s hardest rocking band, all the while ingesting a constant stream of fun enhancing drugs as teenagers are so apt to do. Things get weird when they decide to take a short cut on a back road through the woods, run into a creepy prophet at a roadside stand who issues them a warning, and then subsequently get attacked by a horde of gruesome zombies. But just when you think things are going to go full on Romero, the film switches gears entirely, becoming a sometimes less-than-subtle Texas Chainsaw Massacre homage, complete with a raving lunatic the kids (3 guys, 2 girls coincidentally) bring into the van, an oversized psychopath who butchers people in a wooden shack decorated with bones, and even some interspersed shots of the ominous full moon and close ups of animal skulls for good measure. While that might sounds a little too influenced by predictable Western slashers to some, and it undoubtedly is, make no mistake, Hell's Ground still has an unmistakable Pakistani feel to it. After all, this film's 'Leatherface' wears a blood spattered burqa and wields a spiked ball and chain rather than the typical chainsaw.
Fans of Mondo Macabro's back catalog of outrageous, cult cinema from around the globe will be quite happy to know that Hell's Ground fits in perfectly with the rest of the over-the-top foreign oddities the company has released. In fact, if it weren?t for a few current cultural references and the fact that it was shot on digital video, one might think that Hell's Ground was made right alongside other MM gems like Mystics In Bali or Lady Terminator. It's got that same zero budget charm to it, where things need to get a little creative more out of necessity than by choice. It's definitely got that aura of foreign rural mysticism that can keep Western audiences guessing. Even when the plot begins to head down into familiar territory, you're still never quite sure what might happen, because no matter how formulaic things get, this isn't your typical Hollywood lensed hack n' slashfest. The films soundtrack even has the right vibe, packed with exotic 70's Pakistani pop hits that just scream Mondo Macabro. In other words, if the so-wacky-it's-good recipe presented by the DVD label is your thing, then you will most likely find Hell's Ground quite entertaining. Despite the fact that it's an original production as opposed to some random foreign oddball discovery, it still holds true to the spirit of those older films and should put a smile on the face of any fan of the peculiar.
Hell's Ground is playing as part of the '07 Philadelphia Film Festival.