“Home is no longer Sweet” A Review of HATE CRIME (2012)
**WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS**
From an early age we are taught that the home is the safest place to be, but what would happen if that ideology was suddenly threatened and disrupted? This is exactly what happens to a unsuspecting Jewish family in James Cullen Bressack’s latest feature film “Hate Crime” (2012), a sub-genre horror hybrid that takes home invasion movies and the found footage concept to a whole new level. From Psykik Junky Pictures, “Hate Crime” opens with an innocent setting, a family consisting of a mother (Maggie Wagner), father (Greg Depetro) and their three children Lindsay, Tyler and Alex (Debbie Diesel, Nicholas Clark and Sloane Morgan Siegel) about to sit down to celebrate their youngest Alex’s birthday, within two minutes their whole world is shattered as three masked, anti-semetic, Nazi-worshipping thugs, ambiguously named One (Jody Barton), Two (Tim Moran) and Three (Ian Roberts) break into their idyllic home and from then on just over an hour of brutal carnage ensues!
While on one hand “Hate Crime” is a very controversial piece of film-making and will take a strong stomach to sit through it is actually in place to educate people about the kind of brutality that occurs during these crimes. Having the knowledge of this subject matter isn’t pleasant however its important that films like this draw attention to the issue in order to reduce this kind of cruelty. When the anti-semetics take control in the house over the parental figures it reminds us of the decline of authority in today’s world acting as a metaphor for the decline in respect for the government, the police and even schools. It also reminds us of how prejudice and bigoted mentalities still exist today as it echoes the Holocaust and Hitler’s power on society.
Bressack needs to be congratulated on taking two well-known and popular horror sub-genre’s and creating a powerful, disturbing and unique film that is guaranteed to leave the viewer shaken up which is not an easy task to do in modern horror film-making. Its both daring and clever to use the found footage tactic which in recent years has become quite gimmicky due to the likes of supernatural themed-films e.g. “Paranormal Activity” (2007) and “Atrocious” (2011) and then using the concept by placing it in a real-life situation making “Hate Crime” stand out with its realism approach.
On a technical level the film works well with the shaky camera movements, POV shots and the fact that its filmed in real-time. These elements ensure absolute rawness throughout and it quickly gets under the skin. The film should be praised for how it introduces the villains at around two minutes into the film to a shocking effect, the audience know what kind of film they are in for so the way its done proves a lot more frightening than building up 30 minutes of tension and filler before the action begins. Bressack is a young director who understands his audience and understands what truly makes a horror film scary. The scenes of violence are extreme without being gratuitous for the sake of it, having the camera move away from the violence as its happening then returning to it holds much more weight and impact than watching it first hand the way most torture porn films convey violent scenes. That saying, the tone of the film is nasty, Bressack manages to replicate the tactic Michael Powell used in “Peeping Tom” (1960) by placing the audience in the murderer’s perspective for a chunk of the film. To begin with the father holds the camera indicating a safe environment but as soon as its in the killer’s hands it really makes you question humanity, in these scenes the killer holds the power taking away any sense of predictability leaving the audience unexpected of what will happen. “Hate Crime” holds no barriers as it depicts the kinds of brutality that is inflicted upon people in these situations, the whole cast take the difficult subject matter and do a tremendous job in their performances by creating a sense of helplessness, vulnerability and pure fear. Watching the characters of the parents unable to do anything to help themselves or their children accounts for some harrowing scenes. One, Two and Three are more complex characters than we first imagine, the characters are played with malice, sadism and at the same time vulnerability which questions the thin line between evil and humanity. These are places that we never expect to go to and the layers that are written into each character makes it that more thought-provoking.
It is easy to compare the themes featured in the film to 70’s exploitation such as Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left” (1972) or Sam Peckinpah’s controversial “Straw Dogs” (1970) however “Hate Crime” is unique in its own right as it takes the audience to a very dark place where in moments it can be questionable as to whether they have stumbled upon some poor family’s sickening home movie. Throughout the latter films mentioned the audience are aware that they are in a film world due to the use of music and editing, “Hate Crime” consciously doesn’t use music, the sound is completely external and the audience moves with the camera all the way to the shocking end.
Finally a horror film that straight up paralyses its audience with fear and actually teaches something about the world, is honest and holds nothing back. “Hate Crime” is currently circulating the horror festivals and has already won Best Director and Best of Show at The Underground Monster Carnival that took place in Oklahoma City in March. “Hate Crime” is certainly an unforgettable addition to Horror cinema but thoroughly recommended, James Cullen Bressack has a promising future with the genre.
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Hayley Alice Roberts.