I’ve said it a few times before in past posts – horror and comedy are two genres that are difficult to blend. Directed by Role Kanefsky and billed as starring Tara Reid, Party Bus to Hell was released on streaming platforms on April 13th. Both its title and trailer promise an irreverent blending of laughs and carnage as music festival revellers are besieged by a demon-worshiping cult. Unfortunately, it’s only the viewer who will feel besieged by the time the final credits roll.
A group of hip, attractive young adults board a party bus in Las Vegas on their way to The Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. Unfortunately, the trip is a set-up and their 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 with horror elements. It’s a supremely stupid film that at least knows it’s a stupid film. This may help some viewers enjoy it, though that will largely depend on taste and expectations. Everything in director Rolfe Kanefsky’s film is amped up to extreme levels of ridiculousness from its blood-spurting violence to its sex and nudity. Speaking of the nudity, there is an insane level of casual nudity and sex that makesParty Bus to Hell almost soft porn. As the film enters its third and final, a blood ritual that mixes blood, violence, and overt sex moves the film from painfully stupid to almost awkwardly offensive.
Most of the violence in Party Bus to Hell is poorly filmed. The effects are obviously cheap looking with severed body parts looking like they’re one step above the kind of decorations you could buy from Spirit Halloween. The film’s creature effects are a marginal improvement on most of the film’s gore effects. Kanefsky at least wisely opts to limit and shadow much of his demon’s appearances. In addition, there are a few kill scenes that make good use of practical effects, but they’re largely lost in the film’s broad and clumsy attempts at humour. It doesn’t help that Kanefsky isn’t good at framing the carnage. For instance, the cult’s initial violent assault on the party bus is choppily edited with a loud, generic heavy metal score blaring over the action.
Terrible Acting and Cheap Cosplay Villains
With the news that the Sharknado series will be ending, Tara Reid is probably desperately waiting for an American Pie reboot. Her top billing in Party Bus to Hell is misleading as she’s in the film for such scant amount of time. Nonetheless, her scenery-chewing performance in the film’s opening minutes sets the tone for the next painful 80 minutes or so. 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. You can probably check off all of these columns. Again, I understand that the film is intended to be a horror-comedy but that doesn’t excuse the 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 but so were The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw. How hard would it have been to cast and dress performers as a desert-based demon-worshipping cult? In fact, you probably wouldn’t need elaborate costumes. The cult members look like a cheap mix of S&M-themed wrestlers and Grade 8 cosplayers. There is no cohesive theme to the cult’s look.
A Goofy Mess of a Film with Limited Appeal
I appreciate low-budget B-films when they’re done well. 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 film that B-film fans might enjoy watching in a group if you’re drinking. It just wasn’t my kind of horror-comedy film.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: F