The Netflix recommendation algorithm is a limitless and ineffable mystery. On any given day, you’ll randomly go into the Netflix catalog and pull out a movie that many have forgotten existed or perhaps never even knew about, and you’ll get a huge number of subscribers to watch it. One might recall the moment in April 2023 when the not-particularly-beloved 2011 prequel and remake of “The Thing” topped Netflix’s popularity charts. More people saw it that month than perhaps saw it in theaters.
Netflix’s latest popular surprise comes in the form of Bartosz M. Kowalski’s “Hellhole,” a Polish horror film that premiered on the streaming service in October 2022 but is only now gaining traction. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of “Hellhole” before this; few have. It is only because of the whims of Netflix that it now reaches the public eye.
“Hellhole” is an exorcism thriller set in a Polish sanitarium built specifically for women who are apparently possessed by demons. It’s 1987, and a mysterious monk named Marek (Piotr Zurawski) has come to visit the sanatorium to talk to Prior Andrzej (Olaf Lubaszenko) about his ability to perform exorcisms. Marek is allowed to witness some of the exorcisms, but something is fishy. You see, Marek is actually a secret investigator who has been sent to audit the monastery.
Thanks to a monk named Piotr (Sebastian Stankiewicz), Marek eventually discovers that the sanitarium’s exorcisms have actually been staged, as the Prior Sanitarium aims to defraud the Vatican with its budget for exorcisms. Eight “possessed” women were drugged to emulate possession and have now disappeared. If word got out, it would be a huge scandal.
when it gets sticky
Unfortunately for Marek, that’s not where the conspiracy ends. Marek finds a curious spy device, a device made of bones and eyeballs, hidden in his room. He vomits a ton, and there are flies in the vomit…but things only get weirder from there.
A monk will knock Marek out, tie him to a bed, and force-feed him copious amounts of gross-looking meat. What is all this? It could have something to do with the mysterious mark on Marek’s chest, and the fact that crosses seem to supernaturally flip upside down when in his presence. Marek, the priests seem to believe, is demonic. However, this is not a bad thing for these particular clerics, as they are actually satanic priests who aim to manifest Satan on the earthly plane. His church stands over a portal to hell, and his goal is to summon the devil through it, divert his consciousness into a human vessel, and cause an apocalypse. Because humans are so rotten, they think, the end of the world is well deserved. Too bad for Marek that he has to eat all that disgusting meat.
Where said ritual meat comes from should remain a mystery for now, though one might suspect it has something to do with the eight missing women mentioned above. It could be the meat eating scenes that have some viewers reaching for the Dramamine. This matches earlier scenes when several monks chew moldy meat from dirty bowls. Marek pulls a molar out of his head when the flesh apparently infects it. It seems that this monastery does not have a dishwasher.
don’t eat while watching
Without giving too much away, it should also be noted that “Hellhole” doesn’t really end well for Marek. In fact, it may not end well for many of the characters. According to various reviews, “Hellhole” is a drab, murky and gruesome film, meant to make viewers squirm in discomfort and despair with nihilism. Horror critic Zena Dixon took to Twitter to say “It’s been over two weeks since I watched ‘Hellhole’ on Netflix and it’s stuck in my brain,” so the movie is certainly making an impact.
Critic Johnny Loftus, writing for Decider, noted that much classical religious art is also rife with violence. Saint Jerome sat next to a skull in a remarkable Caravaggio painting, one can visit the catacombs of Paris and see how human skulls were once strictly archived alongside Christian iconography, and a crucifix, after all, is a representation of a mutilated corpse. . “Hellhole” seems to take a lot of advantage of the religious art of death and transforms it into a meaty and desperate horror film that is best enjoyed when you’re not dining.
In English, the word “Hellhole” generally refers to a dilapidated house or an enclosed fighting venue. In the movie “Hellhole”, the hole is quite literal. The Polish title, “Ostatnia Wieczerza,” translates to “The Last Supper,” which, given the amount of food that takes place in the film, might have been a better title.
“Hellhole” is currently playing on Netflix. If there are enough brave, perhaps it is still recommended. It can eventually be considered one of the most notable satanic thrillers of its time.
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