Gehenna: Where Death Lives (NR)

Horror 105 min. May 4, 2018
By Simon Abrams
"You don't get it" says virtually every character at some point in the ambitious but unrewarding supernatural gore-fest Gehenna: Where Death Lives. Director Hiroshi Katagiri and co-writers Nathan Long and Brad Palmer spend so much time disentangling layers of convoluted backstory related to a cursed Hawaiian burial ground that it's often hard to tell exactly why profit-driven land developer Paulina (Eva Swan) and her motley crew of surveyors — including dopey tour guide Pepe (Sean Sprawling) and nice-guy architect Tyler (Justin Gordon) — are trapped inside a WWII bunker by a bunch of time-traveling ghosts.

Katagiri and his collaborators slowly and ineffectually explain — through momentum-crushing, dimly lit dialogue scenes — how a Chamorro curse already decimated a 17th-century Spanish conquistador, a platoon of 20th-century Japanese soldiers, and soon Paulina's 21st-century design team. Paulina and her crew's own connection to the bunker turns out to be as misconceived as the scare scene where Paulina is attacked at the 65-minute mark by her previously unmentioned (and now undead) son. Moments later, Paulina — who doesn't show, up until this point, any interest in Tyler — vaguely warns him that she can’t date him because her grief is too strong: “That’s why I can't be with anyone, can't you understand that?"

It's also hard to care about the fate of such underdeveloped characters when you don't even know why they're being attacked by a slew of reanimated corpses ranging from Pepe's dead mom to "the Old Man" (Doug Jones), a naked, ancient-looking wraith. If what you see is all that there is to "get," then Gehenna: Where Death Lives simply isn't worth puzzling over.
Hiroshi Katagiri Doug Jones, Lance Henriksen, Patrick Gorman, Simon Phillips, Katherine Wallace Hiroshi Katagiri, Nathan Long Uncork'd Entertainment

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