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Jeffrey’s Hell (2024)—A Dive into the Gates of Hell

Jeffrey's Hell (2024) movie poster

If there’s one activity that is both highly fun with a long list of risks (besides race car driving, skydiving, well…you get it) it’s got to be cave diving. From the cold and dark atmosphere, to the high level of skill and experience required to safely navigate your way along the jagged rocks to avoid certain death, cave diving is not for the faint of heart. And what happens when you get lost? Well, I better hope you don’t find the gateway to hell.  

After production of the 2022 found footage film CHEST, director Aaron Irons decides to explore a local Appalachian legend (known as “Jeffrey’s Hell”) that inspired the film. Going off of a creepy anonymous email detailing the location of Jeffrey’s Hell, he finds a cave that supposedly doesn’t (or rather shouldn’t) exist. As he continues to explore the cave, he finds himself getting more and more lost, until he comes face to face with his deepest personal horrors. Aaron is not heard of since his disappearance, with his friends and family showing concern all while any proof of his exploration is erased by the FBI.

Aaron Irons in Jeffrey's Hell (2024)

The film presents itself almost as a mockumentary, with the cast members of CHEST playing themselves and giving a series of interviews detailing what they think is going on with Aaron. I love how we cut back and forth from the interviewees and Aaron’s excursion to help us frame what is actually going on. Much like Tahoe Joe and its sequel, Jeffrey’s Hell is played as a meta horror and commentary blurring the line of reality and fiction. But unlike the aforementioned mockumentaries, Jeffrey’s Hell is played far more straight and ups the horror aspect above all else. Aaron Irons’ films draw their horror from emptiness and claustrophobia. By shooting the film deep in a cave, he brilliantly utilizes his surrounding environment to create something both elemental and primal. Something that awakens a deep feeling of dread and heart-stopping terror. One of my favorite examples of this is illustrated with a wide shot of Aaron in the cave, surrounded by nothing but sheer darkness as he contemplates whether his exploit might be his last all while you feel something just out of sight is watching him.

This utilization of emptiness and claustrophobia also give the film this liminal quality to create almost a dream-like setting. Much like Irons, the cave is painted to be a character itself. The first few levels are more benign, and as Irons descends further and further down, the crazier and more sinister the horrors begin to unfold. As Irons gets more and more lost while being chased by grotesque creatures, the movie enters the territory and phenomenon of The Backrooms. Your hope that Irons makes it out alive dwindles the more you witness the madness that is Jeffrey’s Hell unfold.

Aaron Irons exploring Jeffrey's Hell

I’d like to also mention that the legend of “Jeffrey’s Hell” is in fact real which dates back to 1925. A man named Ebenezer Jeffrey was out hunting with his two dogs when a forest fire broke out. His dogs go missing, and he is told to just leave them, but says that he’d “rather go to hell than leave his dogs.” Jeffrey is subsequently never seen again. Much like Jeffrey, Aaron too goes missing in his exploit to never be heard of again. While the film is fiction, it does remind me of several real and terrifying instances where cave divers go missing (the most famous one being Kenny Veach and the “M” Cave). And much like the real case of Kenny Veach, Irons’ is also speculated to have come too close to a U.S. Government secret, hence both his disappearance and the FBI cover up.

The only aspect of the film I didn’t like was the ending. Not to spoil anything, but the end was a bit confusing for me and briefly took me out of the experience. Does this make the film bad per say? In the case of Jeffrey’s Hell, not really. The film still is a terrifying watch even if you are a veteran found-footage horror viewer. However, it certainly affects the film’s overall score, though not by too much of a margin. Despite this, Jeffrey’s Hell is another brilliant and terrifying found footage film under Aaron Irons’ film repertoire and is one that I will enjoy with continuous views. If you decide to watch it, just make sure you leave the lights on when viewing. 

Still image from Aaron Irons' Jeffrey's Hell (2024)

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