OCTOBER 4, 2009
The difference between a good ‘slow’ movie and a bad one, I think, lies squarely in the characters. If the characters are interesting, then you won’t even notice that this horror movie hasn’t had any kills yet or even scares. And that is why a film like Hurt succeeds where others (Trigger Man certainly comes to mind) have failed. There are only 3 deaths in the entire movie; none of which are traditional kills (they’re all sort of the fault of the deceased), but I was never bored or telling the movie to “come on!!!”
As dysfunctional horror movie families go, the Coltrane family ranks pretty high on the “Jesus, these people need a hug” factor. We have Melora Walters (just me or does she have the sexiest voice of all time?) as the diabetic and seemingly manic-depressive mother, her brother-in-law (William Mapother) who seemingly wants to take his recently departed brother’s place, and two kids, one of whom is an unsympathetic teen girl, and the other is Jackson Rathbone (Dread, Twilight) who even when playing a relatively normal guy manages to come across as a tad off-kilter. And the plot kicks off when they take in a foster child, who is introduced tied up and hanging upside down as the other foster children beat her with sticks.
It’s not spoiling anything (I don’t think) to let you know that the girl isn’t as innocent as she seems (the movie's only blunder is trying to get us to suspect Mapother's character - it's too easy). As Orphan is still playing in some theaters, you might get Déjà vu at times as she begins to cause chaos within the already broken family unit, but it’s not a Killer Kid movie. She’s a bit less evil, putting this more in the Blank from Hell genre, where our villain is just a mentally unstable person who usually just wants to have the perfect life. In fact, certain plot points are more in line with The Stepfather, though not in the way you might think.
I also really dug the movie’s setting - a junkyard. There’s a nice metaphor to the whole thing since all of our primary characters are orphans in some way (discarded objects, “discarded” people), but it’s also just a unique setting for a horror/thriller movie. I can’t even think of too many sequences from such films that are set in one (Nightmare 3 being the only one that immediately came to mind), let alone an entire film. And it’s to the credit of screenwriters Alison Lea Bingeman and Barbara Stepansky (the latter also directed) that they don’t use the various dangers for cheap thrills. You’d think with all of the broken glass, metal shards, and other various elements around, that they would use them all for fake or legit scares, but it’s surprisingly sparse in that department. There’s enough unnerving tension stemming simply from the way the characters relate to each other - we don’t need that other stuff.
There are a few dangling plot threads (Walters’ character attempts to get a job... once. And her unemployment/severe financial hardship is never mentioned again), and the ending is slightly anti-climactic due to a character dying in an identical manner to the film’s only other on-screen kill (and partially revolving around a very clunkily foreshadowed event regarding Walters’ diabetes), but these are minor issues and do nothing to change the fact that Hurt is a refreshingly old-school slow burn of a film, with solid performances across the board and surprising maturity in the story as a whole. I am sure it’s going direct to disc here, but hopefully when it does people don’t think of it as "some DTV movie". Regardless of its distribution, it’s a solid genre film that deserves a look.
What say you?