OCTOBER 20, 2010
While I enjoyed Fragile and The Haunting, Hunger is easily the most interesting and best of the Fangoria Frightfest series. Right off the bat, despite an opening that we’ve seen about a hundred times in the past 5 years (a bunch of people wake up in a room without knowing how they got there or who the others are), its refreshingly free of complicated plots or pointless gore – it’s a survival film in the truest sense, because the title sort of sums it up – these folks are trapped and they have no food. What do they do when their hunger gets to be too much?
I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to suggest that the survivor(s) could form a rugby team after their ordeal has ended. They have water, and a few insects, but after a while it becomes clear that the only way to survive is to eat something real, and thus it becomes a battle between the sick and healthy, as well as the hungry vs. the optimistic. I was pretty surprised at the outcome of their decisions, giving the film a large dose of suspense as well – you won’t be able to easily peg who will be next. And when the cannibalism begins, its not done in a gratuitous or (heh) tasteless way – it’s pretty much all off-screen or obscured via the low-res image that their captor is watching through his monitors.
I think the movie worked on me because I’m a fucking pig. I eat three meals a day and a lot of junk in between (and baby carrots! I love baby carrots). Christ, just while I watched the movie I ate two roast beef sandwiches, a snack pack of Cheez-its, the aforementioned carrots, and some Halloween candy, plus a cup of coffee. They go 23 days (of course they do) before succumbing to cannibalism – I’d probably last about 23 hours before looking at the hot blonde’s curves in a completely different way. So I could totally sympathize with ALL of the characters, which is rare for this sort of thing.
However, one thing struck me as kind of odd. You have three guys down there – why didn’t anyone ever consider the uh, “protein” based alternative some folks swallow even when not even particularly hungry? Even if just to dismiss it just as quickly? There’s an asshole in the group, why didn’t he make some off-color remark? You know, “I got something for you to swallow right here...” I guess this is just a classier breed of cannibal movie.
I also like how it plays with a few horror conventions, such as the two kids making out in a car in the woods only to hear something. Usually this means the killer, but in this case, it’s our protagonists, who are crying for help at the bottom of a well nearby. There’s also a wonderfully contrasting soundtrack choice for the scene – our bad guy ties the two would-be saviors up and pushes their car off the cliff, but instead of some loud metal song or a bombastic score, it just plays this sort of Lifehouse-y ballad. Very odd/cool choice.
Lastly, without spoiling much, I liked that it was largely twist-free. You find out something about the bad guy, but it’s pretty obvious from the start (at least, it was to me). But that’s it – the five trapped folks don’t have some unknown shared secret from their past like in Nine Dead, there’s no plant like Amanda in Saw II, etc. It’s straightforward and fully based on character. Thank you, screenwriter L.D. Goffigan, for taking a Saw-ish scenario and making it as far from Saw as possible. I had actually put the movie off (it’s the last of the FF films for me to watch) because I figured it was just another wannabe, and now I sort of regret it. Then again, my lowered expectations (thanks to the other Fango films) made me appreciate this one all the more.
The disc has a few standard extras, nothing to get your panties in a bunch but adds to the value all the same. A pair of deleted scenes (with director Steven Hentges introducing and explaining why they were cut) are not going to be missed, but the making of is pretty interesting, with revelations such as the fact that the bulk of the movie was shot at a place that sold RVs (!), and that they shot in sequence (a benefit of a single location with the same actors). Hentges also provides a commentary, which is surprisingly as much about story as technique, rare for a director who did not write the script. It’s a bit dry at times, but it’s definitely worth a listen, as he points out some of the low-budget work-arounds (the big 30 foot vertical tunnel was a CGI effect) and the pros of the Red camera, which looks terrific here – very rarely did it betray its digital limitations, which is even more impressive for such a dark movie. Caveat emptor – he does drop the dreaded “this is not a horror movie” defense (“it’s a HORRIFYING one”), which usually irks me but he makes a valid point, and it goes back to what I was saying about this not being a Saw/Hostel wannabe. It’s a very realistic approach, with zero “money shots” or anything gratuitous (though there is a hot sex scene with two of the folks, post-cannibalizing), but not a crowd-pleaser either (interestingly, I just realized that it’s the 2nd cannibal movie of the set, after the also horror-lite but dark Grimm Love). Horror or not, it's just a good movie is all.
What say you?