Reviewed by Alex Wiggins
Horror is such a broad term. Literally anything could be considered horrific or scary depending on how it is depicted. When it comes to films, many viewers connect ‘horror’ with campy slashers or icons such as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Recently, however the genre has tried shaking off these familiar shackles and breaking new ground by entering more realistic territory. Now, films attempt to capture typical horror scenarios in real time on hand held cameras and other motion capturing devices. Nevertheless, despite the realism brought by introducing the story via found footage, very few films maintain a plot line that is believable or isn’t typical run of the mill horror stories.
It’s quite evident in the film Hate Crime that director James Cullen Bressack took note of this technique and decided to use it correctly. Hate Crime follows the sickening story of a Jewish family that is simply celebrating the youngest son’s birthday and is plunged into a fight for survival as a trio of anti-Semitics crashes the party. From the sound of it, one would think this is just some home invasion flick much in the tradition of The Strangers, right? Wrong. Crime is one of the most realistic portrayals of pure fear and terror in modern day society and seeks to expose the atrocious actions of monsters that punish those who don’t fit their image of ‘normal’.
I imagine that the reaction one has naturally to this film is the reaction the creators of Saw and Human Centipede strive for their viewers to have. Yet, Crime hardly relies on fancy gimmicks or overly gory violence to make the viewer squirm. The film uses a much more disturbing and bizarre method in order to invoke fear: the truth. People such as the intruders in Crime really are out there in the world, and they really do rape, torture, abuse, and murder families in front of one another. The only difference between reading about these crimes in the papers and hearing about them on the news is now audiences can witness the horror firsthand. Bressack delivers an unapologetic punch of a cinematic experience that’s bubbling with mediocre to respectable acting skills by the cast, simplistic yet creative methods of camera work and lightening (that makes the film unravel in real time and makes one sometimes forget they aren’t just watching some messed up home video), and the depraved morals of a trio of psychos who feel what they’re doing is nothing short of justified.
Now, I must personally praise two specific aspects of this film. First, Maggie Wagner (Melissa) gives a performance nothing shy of brave and committed. A mother forced to the most embarrassing and lowest forms of humiliation as she tries to stay brave for her children is quite a stretch for anyone’s acting skills (especially considering what torture is forced upon her) and Wagner handles the role wonderfully. Secondly, the make-up departments, for its brilliant use of prosthetic make-up and focus to detail and depth rather than gross out or gore!
Despite all these surprising features of the film, it’s certainly as flawed as any other movie out there. In some scenes the actors tend to over do their characters a bit too much. On top of that, some scenes (to be specific the bathroom scene with the daughter) seemed dragged out and ultimately slow the fast pace that the first eight minutes quickly sets up. However, the messages and morals of the film are what truly shine. The theme of corruption and intolerance are beautiful and as impactful as the messages of fellow exploitation films such as I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left. All together, Hate Crime delivers a sadistic, yet honest and faithful twist on typical home invasion flicks while bringing light to a widely ignored issue of intolerance and well….hate crimes. But, I feel it is one of the more ambitious films released recently that contains an alarming wake-up call to the world.