Hate Crime (2012) Dir. James Cullen Bressack, USA, 73 mins
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today's offering is another one of those movies that has been on my radar for a while but has taken me a while to get to. James Cullen Bressack's found footage movie has certainly developed a reputation for being pretty shocking in both its physical violence and was as the verbal abuse thrown around by its characters, and having been through the ordeal that is Hate Crime I can report that's a reputation that is well justified.
The movie begins with a Jewish family that has just moved into the neighbourhood making a home movie of their son's birthday party – which is a pretty tense and awkward occasion as is. But things are about to get a heap worse as three neo-Nazis – simply nicknamed as One, Two and Three – crash the party and turn it into an unrelenting nightmare for the family. Their racial hatred is clear from the very get go, and there are some slurs in here that I couldn't repeat in any good conscience. What follows is a brutal 70-odd minutes of murder, rape, torture and – not surprisingly – pure hatred.
It's an interesting concept, but certainly not without its flaws. The found footage subgenre has never been my favourite, but in this case is very well used and adds a hard-to-swallow degree of reality. Throw into that the fact that much of the movie at least appears to be improvised – and it certainly does add a dark shade of fear over proceedings. The fact the actors suffering the abuse seem to have little or no idea as to what is coming does add something for sure, a sort of authenticity that you don't tend to see elsewhere.
But in that strength also lies its weakness – even though this is a relatively short movie, the pace of the film feels a little uneven, and there are scenes here that seem to drag a little. Improvised movies, even when done very well, can suffer from this same problem, and spontaneity and messiness go hand in hand here. It has a raw energy that is fascinating, but equally it's certainly not neat and tidy filmmaking if that's the sort of approach you prefer.
It's also hard to argue that the movie really has much of a point or a message – there's some statistics about hate crimes at the end, and that was kind of the first time I thought about Hate Crime was trying to say. It was shocking and feral, but it didn't really say a great deal about race relations, about crime, about survival or the human spirit – but then again, does every film have to have a deep and powerful moral? It's a movie about two groups of people basically at war on a small scale because of who they are, and on that level it's pretty effective. But it's hard for me to honestly say that it's a movie that will live long in the memory.
RATING: 6.5/10. There are some things that Hate Crime does well, and others that it doesn't do so well. Some of the improvised content really hits the mark, while in other places it feels paceles and off topic. In the final analysis I think it's above average but doesn't hit any dizzying heights, and is probably more a movie for extreme horror afficionados or for those who are particular fans of the home invasion subgenre.