Sunday, October 21, 2012 Z is for Zombie: H is for Hell's Ground

H is for Hell's Ground
Pakistan, 2007

The Zombies: Romero Ghouls.

The Source: Polluted drinking water.

The Result: Classic horror filtered through a distinctly Pakistani lens.

This actually happened to me in India.

A group of young Pakistanis skip out on school and family commitments in order to attend a rock concert. Unfortunately, they stray off the main highway and end up in a region with the richly deserved nickname of "Hell's Ground".  Hi-jinks ensue.

Hell's Ground is clearly the result of a filmmaker's love of classic horror films. There are early nods to the Universal monsters, slashers like Maniac, and the seminal Lollywood vampire film, The Living Corpse.  Even the plot is a mash-up of old favorites; the film is actually kind of light on zombie action as there's an early swerve out of Romero territory and right into Texas Chainsaw Massacre country.

But Hell's Ground doesn't just retread ground blazed by earlier films.  Writer/director Omar Ali Khan injects a strong Paksitani vibe throughout the proceedings.  The language is a mix of English and Urdu with a healthy dose of slang.  While conforming to horror film archetypes, the kids also represent a cross-section of Pakistani society.  And the music, costumes, and cultural references all add a distinct sense of time and place.  Hell's Ground is like an old pop standard being covered by some crazy foreign combo; the tune may be familiar, but the groove is strictly local.

There's a scene in Hell's Ground that has particular resonance for me.  During one trip to India I was in a van that was literally swarmed by a horde of beggars who pounded on the doors and windows and thrust grasping hands through every opening.  Flashbacks to every zombie movie I had ever seen kicked in, and I was torn between hacking away at the intruders or collapsing into a sobbing, doomed wreck.  The same situation to the kids in the movie, except with actual zombies of course.

Luckily, this did not.

But you don't need to have had nightmarish experiences on the other side of the globe to enjoy Hell's Ground.  You just have to love horror movies.

4 Ghouls