Welcome to Hell (2022) to All Who Love Satanic Panic Horror
Title: Welcome to Hell
First Non-Festival Release: July 12, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Jimena Monteoliva
Writer: Camilo De Cabo
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Constanza Cardillo, Demián Salomón, Marta Lubos
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Alternating between two timelines, Lucía (Constanza Cardillo) must contend with the difficulties of her life. After meeting the dangerously charming black metal singer Cristian (Demián Salomón), Lucía finds herself pregnant and trapped in an abusive relationship within the parameters of a death cult. She escapes to her grandmother’s (Marta Lobos) home in the outskirts of a small town. Eventually, Cristian tracks her down with the intention of finishing a ritual destined to give him powers beyond recognition.
Forgettable satanic panic 70s throwback Welcome to Hell deserves a watch solely for its practical effects.
Framing the narrative as two separate storylines converging in its bloodiest moments, Welcome to Hell ratchets up the suspense to allude to the darkness that awaits Lucía. While it is puzzling at first, it allows more time to devote to developing Lucía’s character and building the tension. By splitting the time between the two, the audience learns of Lucía’s grandmother’s rumored gifts and sets the stage for a showdown later. Additionally, by observing Lucía in the moments leading up to her escape, it’s clear to see what warning signs she missed that could have led her to a similar answer sooner had she had reason to believe harm would come her way.
Outside of the decision to alter the storyline, not much else here is new or engaging. The dynamics are similar to most films that dabble in cults and devil worship. Charismatic leaders with a thirst for power, devoted followers that will do anything for their leader, battered women fleeing abusive partners, pregnancies created to destroy the world, and more are all present in Welcome to Hell without anything else to juxtapose or otherwise draw parallels against. None of this makes the film bad, it simply does not elevate it beyond average. Welcome to Hell is still a dark slow-burn that wishes to say something deeper than it can manage.
It's clear that Welcome to Hell desires to lean into the Satanic Panic popular during the era in which it is set. Most of Lucía’s problems stem from her involvement with the leader of a metal band who is involved in dark magic and ritualistic sacrifice. She has seen firsthand what he is capable of doing: dispatching her friend and tracking her down long after she left. This draws upon further themes of breaking down the toxicity within machismo culture and the people in society who bear the brunt of their violence. It is especially evident in the end when the leader is faced with a decision that is horrifically easy for him to make and the implications this has for him and those around him.
Perhaps a nod to films of the time, the film has a distinct gritty feeling to it that feeds into its overall aesthetic vision. Grainy cinematography and shaky cam tactics may be off-putting to those expecting more polished but it does lean into the authenticity of the period. Limited in use and scope, the practical effects at the end are excellent. It harkens back to the 70s aesthetic that is clearly utilized throughout the film while still remaining convincing in the present day.
It’s a shame that Welcome to Hell takes a turn for the better with only less than ten minutes left to spare. Its slow burn nature and generic material do the film no favors in distinguishing itself from other offerings. A few more discerning writing choices and some more sturdiness in cinematography make the quality of the film suffer. Capable leads and startling imagery help propel its satanic story back up whenever it gets back into gear. Fans of Spanish language horror and those aching for any metal representation in horror might find something exciting from this Argentinian export. All others may find Welcome to Hell too literal.
Overall Score? 5/10