Fantasia Film Festival 2018 Review: HURT

HURT is the latest film from writer/director Sonny Mallhi (Anguish), which was produced by Blumhouse Productions, and showcases just how terrifying the real-world can be when you are flirting that line between falsehood and reality. The film stars newcomer Emily Van Raay, in her feature debut, along with Andrew Creer (TV’s Lethal Weapon), Michelle Treacy (Killing Daddy), Stephanie Moran (Behind the Curtain) and Bradley Hamilton (Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments).

HURT is one of those films that is both simple in its execution but complicate in its story. The film, on the surface, is quite plain as it takes place on Halloween night in a small Texas town which seems to have barely caught up with the modern world. We are introduced to Rose (Emily Van Raay) and Tommy (Andrew Creer), a newly married couple dealing with the struggles of Tommy’s return home from war. Their actions seem hollow and fake, as if they are both afraid to step on eggshells which could crack the facade they are both putting on. When they decide to go to a local hayride event, which is used as another distraction against the mounting tension between them, a pivotal moment occurs that leads both on separate paths with terrifying consequences.

When it comes to this movie, there is a lot to unpack. The first time I watched it I went in with the assumption that it was going to be a fast-paced thriller filled with bloodshed and carnage, and though some of that does transpire, it doesn’t in the way that I expected. HURT is a slow-burn thriller, catching the audience off-guard with a false sense of comfort from the beginning. The horror doesn’t come in the form of a boogeyman or demonic entity, it comes from within us by the decisions we make and the secrets we keep. It’s a somber film that doesn’t allow much leeway in terms of a happy ending but I, for one, love when a filmmaker is willing to finish on a bleak note as it makes the overall execution feel more realistic.

This film relies heavily upon the action of the characters in order to push it along, which is why finding the right actors was paramount. Just as important was the relationship between Rose and Tommy, which I think actors Emily Van Raay and Andrew Creer did a phenomenal job of portraying. As their relationship begins to tailspin, the true nature of what has been going on in the background begins to appear, making Rose question her relationship with Tommy and what he could be capable of doing. Meanwhile, we see Tommy crumbling over the weight of coming home from war, highlighted by his tremendous PTSD, and the distance he’s creating between Rose and himself. There’s a believability to Andrew’s performance which is heartbreaking to watch, especially when Rose realizes towards the end what she has done.

I’m being as vague as I possibly can because it would be easy to give away a lot of the plot and I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone. I’ve focused heavily on the main characters but I think it’s also important to speak of their surroundings as well. As someone who enjoys going to haunted attractions, I was surprised to find that some of the film took place at one of LA’s most well-known haunts, LA’s Haunted Hayride. What I found interesting was that HURT delves into these preconceived notions that what happens at a haunt is just for show. To me, one of the scariest ideas is that something truly horrific could be happening (ex. kidnapping/murder/etc) in plain sight and because we are in an attraction we assume it’s make believe. It’s a chilling scenario to see played out and a healthy reminder that not everything is always what it seems.

All in all, Sonny Mallhi has created an unique viewpoint on what horror is and how it affects the lives of those around us. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen this film, and though I don’t know how I feel about it as a whole, I can say that it has stayed on my mind since my first viewing. I do believe a movie such as this requires more than one viewing to fully comprehend everything that writer/director Sonny Mallhi is trying to convey. I think this film will have a hard time resonating with the masses due to the fact that most people want mayhem and bloodshed from the get-go, but for those of us who enjoy an impactful slow-build narrative, that I believe pays off in the end, you’ll be in for a real treat.

HURT had it’s World Premiere at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival on July 26th.

Shannon McGrew
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