DVD Review - 6 Degrees of Hell

Joe Raffa (left) enters the Hotel of Horror
in "6 Degrees of Hell"
Joe Raffa directed You'll Know My Name, which was released on DVD earlier this year. He wrote the movie. He produced and starred in it. He was only 20 when he did it, but the movie was amazing. Drawing from inspirations like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, Raffa created a film that was personal and uniquely his own that actually had something interesting and insightful to say. Therefore, I was eager to see his followup 6 Degrees of Hell, a horror film set in Pennsylvania.

For this movie, Raffa again produces and stars. He directs and edits as well, but he didn't write the screenplay. B Harrison Smith wrote the characters and the story. Raffa brings back a few cast and crew from You'll Know My Name, and I noticed a few aesthetic and technical choices that were similar between the two, but there's one noticeable difference. 6 Degrees of Hell lacks the focus that You'll Know My Name had. For example, there's no way to know who the protagonist is here.

Corey Feldman is given top billing, but, in the movie, his character of Kyle Brenner is actually given nothing to do. His entire existence could have been removed and it wouldn't have mattered or affected the plot of this movie. Brenner is supposedly investigating the incident at the haunted hotel that doubles as an amusement park for people wanting to be scared, but all Brenner does is listen to one guy talk about it. He goes to the hotel but he never goes inside and pretty much does no further investigation.

Joe Raffa plays Kellen, a young guy who works at the hotel and whose uncle owns or at least runs it. The first half-hour or so would have you believe that Kellen is the protagonist because there is all this stuff about Kellen's stepfather and all his trouble with the law, but all of it goes nowhere, except to a lame joke at the end about possession. Yet, Kellen's existence could have also been removed and it wouldn't have mattered or affected the plot of this movie either.

Kyle Patrick Brennan plays Erik Sanborn, the star of a TV show that investigates haunted buildings and paranormal activity. After that first half-hour or so, we're led to think that maybe he's the protagonist, but either the writing or editing gives him such short shrift that it's next to impossible to care about him or see him as a character we'd want to follow. We're barely given enough to know him. For example, we learn that Erik is driven by the fact that his sister was killed. There's a scene where Erik watches his sister get brutally stabbed. The film then cuts to the next scene, which shows Erik not even phased and going on like he didn't just witness his sister's horrific murder.

Nicole Cinaglia plays June, the girlfriend of Kellen's best friend, Chris. She's sprinkled throughout the movie and is integral to the plot. Yet, June, as a character, is pulled along. She's no better than any other girl in horror movies who manages to survive till the end only because the script necessitates that someone survive to the end. Character details about her, which she should be relating, are instead given to David J. Bonner who plays Chris. This further distances her from the audience.

The movie also has too many expository moments where characters sit and explain too much, often straight to the camera. The character of Mary Wilkins only existed to give exposition. The character of Jeff Wilde, played by Alexander Mandell who is a fantastic actor and had a great role in You'll Know My Name, only existed here to give exposition. The character of Uncle Jack, played by Brian Gallagher, delivers a monologue looking directly into the camera that was over-the-top expository. That's not to say that Gallagher's performance was bad or it was wrong for Raffa to have him play it straight to the camera. The problem is the writing of those words felt didactic.

His monologue was possibly getting at a theme that it is only vaguely hinted throughout the movie. Other than that, I don't feel like this movie has much of anything to say. Most horror movies don't, but at least they have more focus. This movie did have a creepy ten minutes in the third act when all Hell breaks loose and you don't know what's staged horror and what's real horror, even though most of it is real horror. Other than that, there's some gruesome and gory moments that some might enjoy.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Contains language and gory violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.


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