There are a few good ideas floating around The Hatred. Not necessarily original ones, but the kind of building blocks it’s possible to make a decent movie out of if you have the right talent. The Hatred isn’t that movie. It starts promisingly and it’s nicely shot. But the script soon betrays its lack of ambition – or even thoroughness – and the performances are in need of much greater supervision. It’s a shame the writer and director couldn’t have met up to hammer out the finer points before production commenced.
Writer/director Michael G. Kehoe’s film starts in 1968 with a twenty minute-plus prologue; ex-Nazi relic hunter Samuel Sears (Divoff), a close aide to Hitler dealing in occult artefacts, is living as an Amish at an isolated farm, but when he and his teenage daughter quarrel about the amount of control he exerts over her, all hell breaks loose and two deaths result. Half a century later, a group of four young female students are about to go house- and baby-sitting for their professor at his newly-bought isolated country home, after he and his wife are called away to a conference on the day he was supposed to move in.
So, you know pretty much exactly what to expect, and the success of The Hatred depends entirely upon how successfully Kehoe develops the relationships between the girls and how plausible he makes them, and therefore how much we care about which will perish or survive, how effectively he sets up the scares – and how satisfyingly the explanations fit together. On this latter point, the ambiguity over whether it’s the father or the daughter – or indeed the relic – that’s beleaguering the teenagers seems fumbled at the death, and the haunting sequences follow the Conjuring example rather too closely and too arbitrarily to really be worthwhile – except in one very effective example. Which you can watch in the trailer.
It's really down to the success of the actresses as the beleaguered, then. Kehoe tries to build an atmosphere by saving the full manifestation of his demons till close to the end (while throwing in a number of minor engagements rather sooner, defying his own logic), an approach that, along with some especially unwieldy and bogus-sounding dialogue, pretty much undermines the actors’ performances. Their camaraderie from the beginning feels forced, their Californian positivity misplaced and unnatural, and their reactions to the strange incidents unfolding entirely inexplicable. When one of the girls is almost drowned by invisible hands, they order pizza.
They’d probably all be more likeable in more confident hands, but The Hatred is so ill-considered and ineffectual, it is in the end rather more irritating and frustrating than it is remotely thrilling.
REVIEW: THE HATRED / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL G. KEHOE / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL G. KEHOE / STARRING: SARAH DAVENPORT, ANDREW DIVOFF, DARBY WALKER, NINA SIEMASZKO, SHAE SMOLIK, GABRIELLE BOURNE, BAYLEY CORMAN, ALISHA WAINWRIGHT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW