Horror and comedy are perhaps the two most difficult genres to blend. Filmmakers like Edgar Wright are among the rare talents that have the deft hands to mix the disparate genre styles. Directed by Role Kanefsky and billed as starring Tara Reid, Party Bus to Hell is an example of horror and comedy done wrong. Very wrong. Released on streaming platforms this past April, both title and trailer promise an irreverent blending of laughs and carnage. Certainly, its story of music festival hipsters besieged by a demon-worshiping cult seemed ripe for a dark mix of horror and comedy. Unfortunately, Kanefsky spends more time besieging his audience than the fictional characters.
A group of hip, attractive young adults board a party bus in Las Vegas on their way to The Burning Man festival in Nevada. Unfortunately, the trip is a set-up for more nefarious purposes. Their beautiful and mysterious bus driver takes them deep into the desert where a demon-worshiping cult is waiting. Someone on the bus is the ‘chosen one’ and the cult won’t let anyone leave until they have their blood sacrifice.
Blood, Sex, and Rock N’Roll
Party Bus to Hell is a micro-budgeted comedy that includes horror elements. It’s also a supremely stupid film that knows it’s a stupid film. If this is your cup of tea, you may be in for a treat. However, your satisfaction will largely depend on taste and expectations. Kanefsky amps up literally everything in his movie to extreme levels of ridiculousness. The blood-spurting violence, sex, and nudity – it’s all dialed up past 10. Speaking of the nudity, there is an insane level of casual nudity and sex. In fact, Party Bus to Hell may almost quality as soft porn. As the film enters its final act, a blood ritual mixing violence and overt sex moves the movie from painfully stupid to awkwardly offensive.
The effects are plainly cheap. Severed body parts are arguably one step above the decorations you could buy from Spirit Halloween.
Yet Party Bus to Hell may even disappoint gorehounds. Simply put, Kanefesky makes a mess out of the movie’s violent set-pieces. The effects are plainly cheap. Severed body parts are one step above Dollar Store Halloween decorations. On the plus side, the creature design is a marginal improvement in the special effects department. Additionally, Kanefsky wisely opts to limit and shadow much of his demon’s appearances, which is a smart move. Some of the movie’s kills also make good use of practical effects. Sadly, these few bright spots are lost among the various clumsy attempts at humour. It also doesn’t help that Kanefsky isn’t good at framing the carnage. Everything is choppily edited and accompanied by a loud, generic heavy metal score.
Party Bus to Hell Plagued by Terrible Acting and Cheap Cosplay Villains
With the Sharknado series ending, Tara Reid is probably desperately waiting for an American Pie reboot. Party Bus to Hell certainly isn’t going to do much for her career. Despite her top-billing, she’s in the film for a scant five minutes or less. For better or worse, her scenery-chewing performance in the film’s opening minutes sets the tone for the next painful 80 minutes or so.
Still, horror fans shouldn’t point a finger at Reid. All the performances are broadly over-the-top. It’s hard to tell how much of this is due to a weak screenplay, the direction, or the performers themselves. To be safe, you can probably check off all of these columns. Again, I understand that Kanefsky intended Party Bus to Hell to be a horror-comedy. Regardless of intent, nothing excuses the wooden, eye-rolling performances.
The cult members look like a cheap mix of S&M-themed wrestlers and Grade 8 cosplayers.
I also understand that Party Bus to Hell is a low-budget film. Some horror fans may take issue with my harsh criticism. But horror classics like The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw were also micro-budgeted films. And Kanefsky muddles a lot of simple things. Would it have been that hard to cast and dress performers as a desert-based demon-worshiping cult? Would you really need any elaborate costumes? Not really. But the cult members dress like a cheap mix of S&M-themed wrestlers and Grade 8 cosplayers. There is no cohesive theme to the cult’s look. Everything about the movie looks laughably amateurish.
A Goofy Mess of a Film with Limited Appeal
I appreciate low-budget B-films when they’re done well. Housebound, Deathgasm, and What We Do In The Shadows are recent examples of good horror-comedy. Party Bus to Hell is not done well. Awful dialogue. Poor acting. No scares. Fewer laughs. Cheap effects. I would have rather opted for a derivative rehash of The Hills Have Eyes over this mess of a film. Ultimately, Party Bus to Hell is probably best described as an intentionally cartoonish horror. Connoisseurs of bad movies may enjoy it. This is also probably a movie best enjoyed in a group with lots of alcohol.