After solar storms ravage the earth causing the soil to overheat and scorch our forests, the few who survive are left in a barren wasteland that stretches across the globe. The concept is an impressive one to explain the desert world we are first introduced to in the opening moments of Hell, though what’s more impressive is how this low-budget, post-apocalyptic film managed this look with simple camera tricks. With Roland Emmerich involved as executive producer, you may be expecting big-budget recreations of famous landmarks exploding and wiped away in a giant tidal wave. Instead what you get with Hell is an intimate tale of two sisters struggling to survive in a world where their hope rests in simply finding a small part of the world where water is readily available.
When we first meet Marie (Hannah Herzsprung) and Leonie (Lisa Vicari) they are passengers travelling along an empty stretch of highway with newspapers taped over the windows with only a hole large enough for the driver, Phillip, to see out of. Stopping at what remains of a gas station, our trio of survivors scavenge the place for gas and any supplies to take with them. It’s here that they encounter Tom, a mechanic who offers his skills in exchange for some cans of peaches and to join them on their journey into the mountains to find water.
It’s once the survivors reach the mountains that things begin to take a turn for the worse. After discovering a wrecked car that has fallen over the side of the road, the group ventures off to investigate and gather any supplies that they can take with them. And it is when Leoni is the only one with the van as the others investigate the wrecked car that Leoni realizes that they are not alone in these woods. The van is stolen with her inside, and though Marie and the others try to come to her rescue, it is too late. From this point on the film continues to take darker turns as Marie takes it upon herself to rescue her sister from the captors at all cost.
What is most frightening about this film isn’t in its scares or gore but in how grounded in reality the villains of the film are. Sure they do horrible things, but it’s all in the name of survival, and if the end of days were to come in this shape it’s very possible this is how a majority of those struggling to survive would turn out. I’m purposefully being vague, because so much of this movie hinges on its twists in direction in plot and character. Some decisions made by Marie are questionable, but then again so are many decisions people make in their day to day lives.
After learning the title for Hell is not in reference to any biblical meaning but actually the German word for brightness, the title actually fits nicely. Most of the film is blown even for the night shots to convey the change the world has gone through. At times the film even slides into sepia tones and looks beautiful against the back drop of a scorched forest. The camera work throughout elevates the quality of the film from looking like a modest independent feature.
Overall this is a fun little film that seems to of come out of nowhere. Apparently it’s also floating around under the title Apocalypse; I don’t know if anything in the film has been changed other than the title. For those that are not fans of subtitles, since this is a German film, it does have a dubbed track for you to select from. If you’re a fan of The Road or just want a cool little movie to keep you entertained, this is one to pick up and enjoy.