Directed by: James Cullen Bressack
James Cullen Bressack’s ‘Hate Crime’ is a bludgeoning assault to the senses. It is an uncomfortable viewing experience, and harks back to some of the darker moments of cinema history found in films such as Michael Winner’s ‘Death Wish’ and Wes Craven’s ‘Last House on the Left’.
The horror takes place within a normal American family home. A birthday party is interrupted by a gang of nameless masked thugs. The family suddenly face evil in its human form. Bressack, it appears has focussed on realism, the kind of horrific stories that are becoming a regular occurrence on news bulletins. The film is unsettling, and contains several scenes which are bound to cause a stir, and dare I even say when the film shows at various Film Festivals it may even lead to walkouts.
The clever use of the Family’s handheld camera to document the intrusion creates a disturbing intimacy, which places the viewer in the middle of the violence. The acting is very naturalistic; it appears that Bressack told his cast to run with it, to veer from the script. This sometimes leads to some unintentionally dark comic moments from Jody Barton, Tim Moran and Ian Roberts who play the masked men.
True violence isn’t set-up, it happens spontaneously and chaotically. The masked intruders are savage animals that are driven by their own perversions and base instincts. I felt unsettled by some of the film’s content, but it did get me thinking. It wasn’t shock for shocks sake, there seemed to be a point. In many ways I’ve felt similarly about several films from the ‘New French Extremity’ movement. Where boundaries are pushed, and as a viewer I’ve often wondered why I’m watching this, and what it says about me as a person, about how I respond when confronted by human suffering.
I wonder if Bressack is interested in the idea of ‘body horror’, as the family are branded, burnt, and bloodied. In more uncivilized times, death was in our households, it was on our doorsteps. Families were ravaged by wars, and some suffered from hideous diseases. A walk into town saw public executions. The insane asylums were glorified tourist attractions. The weak were punished. There was a distinct lack of love, care or empathy. What I’m trying to say is that horror was an everyday occurrence, people were exposed to it. Today, the evil is still out there, flick on the news channels, read the newspapers, only we are sheltered from it, safe in our own homes. This is where Bressack has been quite clever by disturbing the carefully constructed peace.
Cinema will always hold a mirror up to society. Yes, this is a clichéd idea, but Bressack’s transgressive direction makes a social comment in the bluntest manner possible. Harsher critics might view the film as torture porn. Yet, pornography is something that is actively sought out. This isn’t a film you would want to see, it is a film that you will encounter reluctantly, and likely it will leave an impression.