Hate Crime (2012)
[As of this writing, the producer of HATE CRIME didn’t want to release any stills from the film -- AHS]
Finally; thank you, Bressack!! HATE CRIME is the second full-length feature from indie horror filmmaker, James Cullen Bressack. His debut, 2011’s MY PURE JOY (my review), wasn’t a bad film but there were pacing and script problems that kept me from really enjoying it. The film was, though, full of great shots and some really solid ideas. In the last year Bressack has kept busy and has been learning and growing as a filmmaker and it shows in HATE CRIME. What could’ve easily become an exercise in exploitation and gratuitous sex, violence, and gore becomes something more.
HATE CRIME has a pretty basic set-up: A family (mom, dad, two sons, and a daughter) are celebrating the birthday of the youngest son when a group of men break into the house and over the course of the next few hours torment, torture, and rape (as well as some other acts I won’t mention) the family members. But HATE CRIME is so much more than just a home invasion flick. Is there a twist at the end? No, and that’s not what this film was going for. The movie is shot in an ultra-realistic fashion and for a change I didn’t mind the fact it was shot in that POV/found footage style. This worked here and Bressack utilized that medium to the fullest. In many recent releases, the POV/found footage aspect is a gimmick and comes across forced. But Bressack reminds us why this sub-genre of found footage flicks became so popular in the first place!! When done right, the found footage style adds a whole other dimension to the film and makes the viewer forget they’re watching a movie. Bressack sucked me into HATE CRIME right from the first shot and kept me involved the entire time.
Bressack also smartly kept the movie short. At a brisk 73 minute run time, HATE CRIME doesn’t overextend its welcome and become tedious. The film has something to say (something important) and it comes across extremely well. Do you notice with found footage flicks that they never adequately explain why the camera is rolling the entire time? This really pisses me off!! But here we get a satisfying explanation as to why these horrible things were filmed … the sadistic bastards committing the acts wanted them on film in order to relive that fateful night.
The acting is solid from the entire cast. The daughter, Lindsay (Debbie Diesel), has the most demanding role and pulls it off beautifully. She starts off very strong and defiant but as the night goes on we see her character slowly being broken by the intruders and becoming more and more timid. There’s no large or dramatic changes in Lindsay where she’s strong one moment, weak the next, and then strong again. We get a very deliberate character arc and Diesel does a great job. The other family members also put in great performances.
The straw that usually breaks the camel’s back in these home invasion-style flicks is usually the invaders; the bad guys. They usually end up coming off as comic book-ish villains that are so evil they’re hard to relate to and as a result aren’t really scary. Bressack, again, does a solid job creating bad guys who we can relate to and who could (and unfortunately do) exist in the real world. They have real motivations and behave in the “real world.” The actions of these human monsters aren’t over-the-top and they really get under your skin. Not only did I hate these guys, but I was afraid of them and afraid of ever running into anyone like them.
I’m not going to go into any more details about the plot. You need to see this one as I did—not having any real idea of what to expect. This is definitely an emotional punch to the balls and I found myself thinking about HATE CRIME after watching it (that’s always a positive sign that a movie is good). Bressack could’ve easily let this film devolve into exploitation and gratuitous violence and sex, but instead controls the material in such a way that the violence on screen was a direct result of the character’s motivations and organic to the story. I’m a huge fan of Fred Vogel’s AUGUST UNDERGROUND series and put HATE CRIME in the same camp as that trilogy (although it’s not as graphic). There’s a lot of subtext going on in these films and the filmmakers all have something to say. And believe me; they get your attention!!
MY PURE JOY was a solid effort for a young filmmaker who obviously loves the horror genre. He showed a lot of potential in his debut film but just needed more experience in order to accomplish what he was trying to do successfully. Bressack then took a shaky detour and produced and co-directed a few micro-budgeted anthology films that weren’t right for his talent. Making those films weren’t doing anything to help him grow. Now with HATE CRIME, Bressack is back on track and has finally made the kind of film I knew he had in him. HATE CRIME is the type of film you hate to say you like, but you do. This is a well written, well shot, and overall well-executed film and I’m really looking forward to watching Bressack continue to grow as a filmmaker.
HATE CRIME is currently in post-production, but when it’s released I’ll be sure to let you all know!!
Director: James Cullen Bressack (& co-writer with Jarret Cohen)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls (not just for the gore, but for a lot of disturbing content)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer