Hell's Ground (Zibahkhana)

A group of Muslim Pakistani teens all make up stories to duck school and head out for an illicit adventure, but unrest in the countryside over contaminated water sends them on a detour to "Hell's Ground."

Laura's Review: B+

Islamabad Ice cream shop owner Omar Khan is a horror fan and it shows. "Hell's Ground" is a pastiche of classics of the genre and flat out homage to the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" that observes all the conventions with a twinkle in its eye. This movie is a treat for fans. Pakistani Model Adnan Malik serves as the first victim before the opening credits, the handsome young man in a shiny sports car taken out after making a foreshadowing detour. The group of young teens we return to in present are a calculated bunch - the rich, brash princess Roxy (Rubya Chaudhry) who reaches for her cell phone as soon as her eyes open; the doper Vicky (Kunwar Ali Roshan) who tokes up to "The Living Corpse" DVD; the nice girl Ayesha (Rooshanie Ejaz) who tucks a religious amulet ('God is Great') beneath her shirt; the son of a street sweeper, Simon (Haider Raza), who hangs with the more well-heeled crowd. Guess which one will survive? A wildly painted van is supplied by yet another of the crew and they all set off for a destination they will never reach. After veering off the main road, they stop at Deewana's 'famous' tea shop. Deewana is recognized as the actor (Rehan) who appeared as Dracula in "The Living Corpse" and tells tales of the rich and famous stopping for his illustrious chai (Angelina took four thermoses!), before warning them that good Muslims should be preparing for evening prayer. Not heeding, the group continues into an area of lost cell phone signals. Vicky, claiming sickness from Deewana's 'bloody ladoos' heads to a stream, where he's bitten by zombie! With the van low in the frame and clouds rolling in fast motion over the setting sun, more of the cannibalistic undead appear (dwarf zombies! guru zombies!). A creepy hitchhiker proudly presents a decapitated head, Vicky spews bile, and then things get worse when Baby (Sultan Billa), a burkha wearing, mace wielding, eyeball collecting maniac, comes out to play. "Hell's Ground" is being touted as 'Pakistan's first gore' movie, and while it certainly offers more blood and guts than the original "Saw," it is still relatively tame by Herschel Gordon Lewis standards or the recent American remake. It is surprisingly effective, with the cultural perspective adding spice to the mix (the well to do teens speak English, for example, until adrenaline reduces them to their native tongue; Baby's mother is ostensibly seeking a wife for her son). In addition to the "Saw" like shot compositions, Khan uses plenty of visual and aural Lollywood references and even a few animated asides. The acting is above average for the genre, with Baby a unique treat - again, Khan has talent for obviously using a film as his boilerplate, yet making it how own (he notes on the director's commentary that Baby appears at just about the same time in his film as Leatherface in "Saw," but that it wasn't planned). That commentary, by the way, is quite fun. Kahn tells us that the kids' crossing paths with Simon's dad before getting out of the city is a tribute to "Psycho's" state trooper and how he used English to get away with things from the film censors. The DVD, from TLA Releasing, also includes a documentary and post-premiere interviews with the cast, as well as a music promo and the original trailer. As far as I am concerned, the horror genre has the biggest miss to hit ratio of any. Consider "Hell's Ground" that rarity - a pleasurable hit.

Robin's Review: DNS