Writer-director Sonny Mallhi’s Hurt is a truly captivating piece of genre cinema. It’s also very surprising, as it’s the rarest of rare things – a thought provoking slasher film which strongly resonates on an emotional level.
Movies In Focus readers will know that I constantly reiterate the fact that horror movies only work when there’s an emotional core and strong characterisation. This is even important for slasher films, which often only care about killing the next screaming teen onscreen. However with Hurt, Mallhi spends time helping the audience get to know Emily Van Raay’s Rose, letting us into her world in a very deliberate way. Those wanting a quick stalk and slash from the very start will be disappointed. Sure, there’s a tense opening sequence, but things then take a more introspective turn which brings real pathos to the film. It’s during this well constructed sequence that we get to know Rose and her PTSD suffering husband, Tommy (Andrew Creer). They’re a couple on the brink, but we get brief moments of what life was like before Tommy went off to war. For a Halloween date the pair decide to go to a remote scare park and when Tommy goes missing Rose just thinks he’s walked-off to be alone. That’s when things turn dark, delivering a creepy and very brutal last act.
It may sound like Hurt isn’t a horror film – it very much is – it’s horrific and much of this stems from how Mallhi builds tension. It will give horror fans with patience every thing they want from a slasher film – a Halloween setting, a killer in a mask and even bloody dismemberment. But it will also give them something often missing from this type of movie – gravitas. As a producer, Mallhi was involved in the Bryan Bertino’s excellent The Dark And The Wicked and Hurt shares many themes with that film – fear, death, violence, loss, love, family, isolation and yes, hurt. The pair of films make for a fitting double-bill as they are both complex investigations into the human psyche and have more depth and originality than their often dismissed genre would imply. Many people talk about ‘elevated horror’ – there’s no such thing – there’s just good filmmaking.
At the centre of Hurt is Emily Van Raay and the actor mages to hold the screen as the protagonist and the emotional centre of the film. It’s much more than your typical ‘Scream Queen’ turn and Van Raay is really able to run the gamut of of emotions throughout the course of film. I promise you that it’s acting right up there alongside any award-winning performance that you’ll see this year.
Hurt is a film which works way beyond its genre trappings. Yes, it’s a horror film (and a dark one at that) but it also has the construction of an excellent drama. It’s this what ultimately makes Hurt the best horror film of the year.