Ahhh, the home invasion film. It’s a popular idea that requires little setup and exploits a primal fear–the violation of our home and shelter. An ugly intruder amidst all things familiar. Our castle turned cage with a single breach.
Horrifying stuff, really. No doubt filmmakers such as James Cullen Bressack seek to expose their audience to these dreadful scenarios. It hits home. Literally. In this case, Bressack takes it one step further in his quest for full, unadulterated immersion and employs the found footage style. Now, home invasion films aren’t for everyone, but found footage films have an even more polarizing effect. For those horror fans who can appreciate both, “Hate Crime“ is worth a look. If you’re seeking specifics of the plot, further reading won’t reveal much. A family is taken hostage by masked gunmen. That’s all I’m telling, and that’s all you need to know.
The elements of this story are decidedly simple, and the film wastes no time getting to the good stuff. It moves along at a brisk pace, hardly allowing the viewer to catch his breath, much less let down his guard. And while that may not make for optimal jump scares, this film isn’t interested in petty antics. It wants to exhaust you.
The brutality is less related to physical torture–the most graphic of which takes place off screen–and more a product of sheer intensity. Save a brief introduction to the family, complete with sibling banter, ill tempers and domestic feuding, the film quickly escalates with a healthy offering of heinous laughter, disturbing acts and distorted enthusiasm that is simply unsettling. When the pace finally lets up and allows for some intimate conversation, the dialogue is effectively sinister and not without devastating implications. It is a gripping contrast of wills and emotions: those of the victims pleading for salvation and those of the jolly invaders. And while the monotony of the struggle may be off-putting, I consider it a test of endurance designed with discomfort in mind. It is a horror film.
One interesting facet of this film is the development of the immediately indiscernible antagonists. It takes time, but they ultimately evolve from the raving mad men of first impression. They are passionate in their endeavors, unrelenting yet giddy and actually far more interesting than the family they victimize. Their brand of off-the-cuff terrorism comprises the bulk of the film, and there really is little else to it.
The performances are often satisfactory, improving as the film progresses, and the direction overall impressive. There are few cuts in this film and the host of long takes is a feat for all involved. However, simply put, the selling point of this film is the content… but that is if, and only if, you’re in the market. “Hate Crime” is a constant barrage of brutality projected through the grit and grime of unpolished cinema. It is “Funny Games” without the civility. And, in the end, it is a hard-hitting feature-length Public Service Announcement for a thoroughly unprepared public. They have no idea what lies in store. Enjoy.
“Hate Crime” will be hitting festivals soon. Review by Levi Caleb Smith