Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hurt (2009)

So, Hurt’s poster, with a woman peeking out from a dilapidated building, makes it look like another run-of-the-mill slasher horror movie, but I can promise you it is nothing like its poster makes it appear to be. Instead of the typical balls-to-the-wall horror flick, Hurt takes its time building up its dramatic story. Instead of a psycho slasher it’s filled with equally dark and devastating family secrets. It’s always nice when a horror film decides to take the more psychologically terrifying route as opposed to the in-your-face blood and guts approach.

After her husband’s untimely death, Helen Coltrane (Melora Walters) and her two teenage kids, Conrad (Jackson Rathbone) and Lenore (Johanna Braddy), are forced to move in with her brother-in-law Darryl (William Mapother). He lives in the middle of the desert in a dilapidated junk yard, so suffice to say the kids aren’t exactly thrilled, especially Lenore. It also doesn’t help that Darryl is a little odd and seems to have the hots for Helen. And yet, the family is stuck there until they receive a settlement from their late father and husband’s death.

Things get even more complicated when Helen brings home Sarah (Sofia Vassilieva), an abused foster child that her husband had been keeping an eye on before his death. When Sarah arrives the tense atmosphere of the household escalates as sinister “accidents” begin happening. When these accidents become deadly in nature, it is not long before dark family secrets are revealed.

I was immediately pulled into Hurt from the opening sequence of the titles moving fluidly through the dry desert landscape to a mysterious car wreck. The photography was stunning and the setting of the desolate desert really mirrored the Coltrane family – dry, withered, empty. Hurt shows the fragility of family relationships but also the frightening strength love can give, whether it is for good or for bad.

Hurt may not be a traditional horror film, but it’s psychological twists and turns make it for an excellent, low-key thriller.

Though I pretty much suspected from watching the trailer who the bad apple was, it still didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film. In fact, I just wanted to know why and how the perpetrator committed the heinous acts (one particularly hard scene to watch is when a pet duckling is found with its neck broken). When the motivations are explained it all makes perfect, tragic sense.

My only problem with the film is how the “bad guy” went from a charmed life to being a manipulative and crafty villain in the span of just weeks. The divide just seemed far too wide for a regular person to cross in such a short amount of time, but then again, I suppose the need for revenge can change anyone.

The actors soon helped put these quibbles to rest with their stunning performances. Melora Walters as the weepy, wounded mother just oozed vulnerability, while Johanna Braddy as daughter Lenore brought some backbone to the family. Braddy portrayed Lenore as grieving, but also determined to move on and live her life. She is also the first person to suspect that all isn’t as it appears to be. The wonderful William Mapother played Uncle Darryl with just enough skeeviness to creep me out, but also with a few tender moments to make you rethink him as a monster. Sofia Vassilieva as the not-so-innocent Sarah gave a solid performance. Her character made me uneasy, but it wasn’t until halfway through that I really knew if she was good or evil. When she decides to take that path, though, there is no turning back for her and it’s a joy to watch the transformation!

Just what happens to the Coltrane family? Well, at first beloved family articles go missing or are destroyed. A beloved pet duckling is killed. Things become more sinister as medications are switched, people are impaled on rusty pipes or crushed by the abundant parts of metal in the junk yard and wild wolves zero in on the prey. The villain messes psychologically with the family’s heads, getting them to blame and turn on each other, before waging an all-out brutal revenge scheme on them. Don’t go into this movie looking for blood and guts, but it does have several nice moments. Overall, though, it’s much more about the psychological terror caused by all the first few subtle acts that begins to rip the Coltrane family apart. By the time they realize who is behind the sabotage it is far too late.

Directed by Barbara Stepansky (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Alison Lea Bingeman), Hurt is a tense, psychological thriller that I really enjoyed. Ignore the misleading poster, because Hurt offers much more than its poster shows.

Order it on Amazon!

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