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Monday, December 6, 2021

Movie Review - "Hurt" (2021)

Following a Haunted Hayride, a Couple Learns What it Means to "Hurt"

by Mike Imboden

As the movie starts we’re told this is “inspired by real events” and as things begin to play out it looks as though we’ll be visiting some fairly familiar slasher flick tropes and situations.  It’s at this point that director Sonny Mallhi throws a curve ball and we see that Hurt may not be precisely what we expect it to be.

Rose (Emily Van Raay) works at a gas station/convenience mart and the night before Halloween someone enters as she’s reading a book.  When she looks up the customer is nowhere in sight, so she starts looking around the store.  Stepping out from hiding is her husband, Tommy (Andrew Creer) and they somewhat awkwardly embrace.  Turns out he just returned from deployment to an undisclosed location, but it’s quickly pretty obvious that he’s suffering from some sort of PTSD.  After an awkward evening the next day with Rose’s sister (Lily, played by Stephanie Moran) and her boyfriend (Mark, played by Bradley Hamilton), Tommy asks Rose if she wants to go into town and go to the haunted hayride attraction, something they used to do (presumably before Tommy’s deployment) and, despite being “grown up now” (as Rose says to Lily earlier in the evening), she agrees. They seem to be enjoying themselves with Rose getting into the act by shouting “Hang the #$%@&!” when, during a skit, a young woman is dragged out by a masked man who asks the audience if anyone objects to her getting hanged. Rose even giggly points out to Tommy that she can see the harness rig that will protect the woman when her executioner pulls the lever.
Later, when things start to get hot and heavy between the two, screams and cries for help from the attractions have a negative effect on Tommy and he bolts off after pushing Rose away. And thus, as the film’s synopsis promises us, “when real terror follows them home, they must fight for their lives - or become the next attraction”. 
What follows is a fairly slow affair that ambles along, particularly during its second act.  While this may test some people’s patience, it’s not necessarily a bad thing here. The tension is ratcheted up during the cat and mouse games that follow and this is in great part thanks to the deliberate pacing.  Not only has it been shown to us that Tommy has some sort of PTSD, the people in his life (chiefly his wife), are quite aware of it as well.  As such, a lot of the oddities and strangeness of the night are more than likely attributed to it and so, obvious concerns aside, there isn’t your typical sense of urgency.  Without that step into crisis mode, it seems logical for the less-than-frantic pacing.
Malli frames a lot of shots creatively, sometimes giving them a slightly out of focus feel, other times - when using a hand-held camera - having the shot almost feel like it’s supposed to be a first-person point of view. In doing so, it allows Malli to see only what he wants us to see, most likely to subvert our expectations of what we’re watching.  Is he trying to say something about PTSD here?  That when we see someone suffering from it we should try to see them differently (more sympathetically)?  If so, there may have been a better way to go about sending this message since it never really seems like he’s fully committed to that being an important part of the plot.  Speaking of which, there unfortunately isn’t much of a payoff for what we’re shown as it relates to the somewhat ambiguous examination of PTSD and how it affects those that experience it and the effect it has on people around them.  The ending could have been better served by more exposition along the lines of voice overs we got a couple of times earlier in the film.  As it stands, the ending would have felt right at home in a number of other films that had less ambitious aspirations of being a “thoughtful” kind of horror movie.
All in all, Hurt is a well put together and produced foray into the slasher sub-genre that is splattered with many similar films that don’t come close to matching its style and substance.  Check it out for yourself when Hurt becomes available in theaters and to rent and own on North American digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms through Gravitas Ventures on December 10, 2021.

Directed by: Sonny Mallhi
Written by: Solomon Gray and Sonny Mallhi, 
Starring: Emily Van Raay and Andrew Creer. 
Produced by: Sonny Mallhi and Robert Menzies
Executive produced by: Melissa Carbone, Dinesh Maneyapanda, Cielo Alano, and Steve Boisvert. 
Runtime: 1 hour 33 minutes
Rated: NR
Release date: December 10, 2021 (United States)

"...Hurt is a well put together and produced foray into the slasher sub-genre..."

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