Four young women travel to their college professor’s new country home for a weekend getaway, only to discover that the house has a malevolent past.
Director Michael G. Kehoe was obviously inspired by the early works of George A. Romero and John Carpenter because his latest horror feature, “The Hatred,” is filled with many of their customary trademarks. He thankfully never resorts to the handheld camera gimmick so many other horror films seem to employ these days and because of this decision, we can clearly see everything that transpires onscreen. Like Romero and Carpenter before him, Kehoe uses plenty of extreme wide shots, allowing the action to unfold in glorious widescreen and he slowly builds up the tension from the very beginning of the movie with great aplomb.
As the story begins, we are introduced to Samuel Sears (Andrew Divoff), a German immigrant living in the U.S. in the 1960s along with his wife Miriam (Nina Siemaszko) and teenage daughter Alice (Darby Walker). He has a dark past, connected to Adolf Hitler and he is overly-protective of Alice and will not allow her to make friends with some of the local kids, much to her frustration and annoyance. When she goes behind his back and allows a local neighborhood boy to come over to their farm to talk to, Samuel is furious and grounds Alice to the house. When she later confronts him, he refuses to listen to her and enraged, she attacks him but he accidentally knocks her into a horse trough. As she tries to surface for air, he keeps her underwater, eventually drowning her. Knowing how close she is to her mother, he buries her corpse in the basement inside a makeshift cement wall and when she doesn’t come for dinner later that day, he pretends like he doesn’t know where she is. Gradually, his wife begins to suspect that he murdered her and while he is out on the farm the next day tending to his fruit trees wearing a pesticide suit and gas mask, she sneaks up behind him, switches the direction of the gas canister and Samuel slowly chokes to death on the poisonous fumes. Shortly thereafter, Miriam packs her bags and leaves, never to return.
As we cut to present day, Regan (Sarah Davenport) and some of her friends temporarily move into the Sears farmhouse while babysitting one of their college professor’s young daughters, Irene (Shae Smolik). They are in awe of the gorgeous homestead, with each girl taking their pick of one of many beautifully kept bedrooms but as is the way with horror films, one is kept locked, and we later find out that it was Alice’s bedroom. As the girls hang out together and play games and drink lots of wine, a thunder storm quickly moves in, causing a blackout and forcing everyone to make their way around the house with flashlights. Eventually, as they all head off to their own rooms for the night, supernatural elements come to life and as each girl is killed off, Regan uncovers the horrible truth about what happened to Alice all those years ago and must figure out a way to appease Alice’s now malevolent spirit, before it is too late!
While “The Hatred” is a visual splendor to behold, much of the story falls under scrutiny. Granted, for the most part, with a horror movie, while the script is not always what attracts its audience, depending on the genre of the film, half-naked girls running around and innovative bodily dismemberments could be the big draw, but here, much of the story is introduced to the audience and then quickly discarded. When we are first introduced to Regan, we discover that her sister is staying with their sick, bed-ridden grandmother, and as Regan experiences the horrors during the night, we cut to her grandmother who appears to be in a coma-induced state, and she is physically reacting to the evil surrounding Regan but once the story leaves the grandmother and returns to Regan’s situation, the grandmother is never mentioned again. For a moment I thought the grandmother might have been Miriam, Alice’s mother who moved on with her life and started a new family but nothing is ever specified.
One other scene involves Irene shouting for Regan to come to her bedroom. When Regan enters, she sits down on the bed beside her and notices that Irene looks upset. She proceeds to inform her that she thinks something is under her bed. Regan notifies her that there is nothing there but asks if she will go back to sleep if she looks for her. Irene nods and Regan gets down on her knees and looks underneath and much to her surprise, she sees Irene lying on the floor. She tells Regan, pointing upwards, “That’s not me,” to which Regan looks up and sees a demonic-looking Alice on the bed. She screams and grabs the real Irene and they both flee the room. I’m not giving away a big reveal here by describing this scene as it is visible in the trailer but why would demonic Alice, pretend to be Irene, and have her look under the bed, only to discover real Irene when all she had to do was attack her? I think the scene would have worked much better had Regan entered the room to check on Irene, see her lying fast asleep, hear a noise coming from underneath the bed, and when she checks it out, discovers Irene lying on the floor.
As the film moves towards its finale, Regan unearths Alice’s corpse in the basement and while communicating with her, telepathically, we ascertain that Alice’s spirit is angry because nobody ever came looking for her when she first died. As Regan manages to escape from the house, we see a glimpse of Samuel’s spirit, in full pesticide suit complete with gas mask, staring at her from one of the upstairs bedroom windows and we are led to believe that he and Alice are going to have a huge supernatural fight but Regan grabs Irene and the two girls head off into the night and the movie ends. While I have to give director Michael G. Kehoe props for not resorting to the quintessential elements that accompany stories of this ilk and have all the girls onscreen strip down to their underwear, many other aspects of the script are never fully explained so once the final credits begin to roll, you are left scratching your head out of sheer confusion. There are some genuinely creepy moments and because we see very little of Alice, especially in the beginning, the movie nicely builds tension and suspense the old-fashioned way, akin to “Jaws.” All in all, a good old-fashioned haunted house thriller.
Available on Blu-ray & DVD Tuesday, September 12th