Gehenna takes no prisoners right out of the gate. A definition, a Biblical quote and a bloody ritual tell the viewer this is not a soft and comfortable movie-going experience. And that is not a bad thing.
A Dark Story
The first thing that the film, Gehenna: Where Death Lives asks you to keep in mind is in the definition of Gehenna: A most accursed place; destination of the wicked. So we learn this definition, we see a ritual take place hundreds of years ago, and then are greeted by a beautiful beachfront resort property on the island of Saipan, way out in the Pacific Ocean. Paulina receives a set of Bo Jo Bo dolls when she checks into her hotel room.
Feeling bothered by the insistence of the bag check boy to give her these dolls, she reluctantly accepts them and sends him on his way. Paulina is a part of a survey team of sorts, investigating locations for a new hotel location. Determining all the fun details like what style and theme the location might have, and recognizing construction challenges that are presented.
Middle Of Nowhere
Paulina and her team discover a circle of giant rocks that might have had religious significance years ago. When her camera man sends up a drone to survey the land further, they find a few natives in this area that they were told was deserted. Once they approach the natives, they are warned to heed the warnings of their ancestors.
This marks where the film begins the descent into its namesake. The native was praying at the entrance to an old WWII bunker, which Paulina determines must be investigated in case it has any bearing on her potential resort property. Her camera man finds a Bo Jo Bo doll that the native dropped. Once inside the bunker, they discover much more than just old WWII artifacts. Dead bodies and empty food canisters are creepy enough, and it gets worse. They discover an old, partially dressed man crouched in the corner. Once he realizes he has been found, he hobbles to the group with a message that they cannot make sense of until it is too late. The truly chilling detail within his message, is that he knows one of the party member’s names. The strange old man’s last words were ‘you must die.’
Just as they come to terms with finding an old man in this bunker, the whole bunker shakes. An ear-piercing sound fills the air, and every light in the place turns on. Where there was once a bunker void of activity, there are now more entities around. However, the identities, time period and mortality of these persons are what really take a moment to comprehend. Everything from WWII officers, dead parents and children, even disembodies voices coming over radio channels fill moments in this twisting tale.
The ancestor’s curse takes hold of one of the team, and we begin to see the numbers dwindle. Paulina realizes that they have the two original Bo Jo Bo dolls that started the curse, and talks the possessed teammate into lifting the curse. Things do not go according to plan, and the curse is allowed to remain. Each party member meets their demise, though the means of their end varies.
The old man’s cryptic message, along with an old soldier’s journal help to piece together a strange story of an island curse. Paulina and her team do not fare well in this underground hell. You, the viewer, learns all too late what this curse truly is, and that itself has a way of giving you a chill. Doug Jones, as always, does a spectacular job of playing an unidentifiable creature.
Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Starring: Doug Jones, Lance Henriksen, Patrick Gorman
Directed By: Hiroshi Katagiri
Disclosure of Material Connection: YBLTV Writer / Reviewer Patrick Mackey, received a digital copy of Gehenna: Where Death Lives for free from Uncork’d Entertainment in consideration for a Product Review.