Stop me when this sounds familiar: A group of kids lie to their parents, hit the road for a night full of partying, and stumble across a nightmare of monumental proportions. Sounds like your typical B-grade horror movie, right? Absolutely. Hell's Ground is an unwaveringly derivative and preposterously gory little genre concoction that borrows a lot from the finest films of George Romero, Sam Raimi and Tobe Hooper while forging very little new ground of its own. But you know what? It's still a fun fright flick, even with all its obvious touchstones and blatant inspirations. Once the movie gets the character introductions and the requisite wheel-spinning out of the way, it's a pretty energetically good time.
It's Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Dawn of the Dead, sorta ... oh, and it came from Pakistan. Did I not mention that part? Yep, a mega-splattery zombie-strewn slasher flick from Pakistan. Shot entirely in Islamibad by a bunch of young filmmakers who clearly grew up with the same horror flicks we did. So while you're being assaulted with ideas, characters and monsters that are clearly 'borrowed' from other sources, well, it's just quite the novelty to witness Pakistan's first gore movie.
Hell's Ground (Zibahkhana) follows the formula laid down in thousands of horror movies: Cocky youths out of their element, knee-deep in trouble, and getting hacked to pieces. But director Omar Khan is aiming for much more of an homage than a sneaky rip-off, and it's evident from the beginning of the mayhem that his references are affectionate ones indeed. Plus it's just a lot of fun to see how such an oft-told tale gets filtered through another culture.
Case in point: The bloodthirsty lunatic in Hell's Ground wields a giant spiked mace and chases his prey while wearing an extra-large burqa with one eye-hole sliced out. As far as the zombies go ... well, there's not many cultural differences to worry about there: Undead ghouls chomping on human flesh is a pretty universal experience, I suppose.
So as beholden to other flicks as Hell's Ground is, it's a tough little homage-fest to dislike. If the first half of the movie is an exotic-yet-obvious piece of uphill climbing, the second half is a full-course genre treat with a spicy Pakistani flavor. The movie also displays a very tongue-in-cheek vibe that doesn't get in the way of the periodic creepiness and the nearly non-stop carnage. Plus both of the leading ladies are fine scream queens -- and very easy on the eyes.
So the bottom line is this: If it were an American flick, Hell's Ground would be watchable, amusing and instantly forgettable, mainly because the American movie machine has already churned out a hundred others just like it. But given that the movie comes from a culture not exactly known for their horror fare, I'm willing to raise my recommendation a little higher. If you're an astute horror geek who's not afraid of "foreign" people and their dang subtitles, definitely toss this raucous, goofy, and appreciably gory import into your Netflix queue.
With all that's going on in the world these days, it's nice to know that something as amusing as horror cinema can unite people in some very small way. It's just kind of comforting to know that the kids halfway around the world grew up loving Evil Dead 2 as much as we did.