Sonny Mallhi’s Blumhouse-produced horror film Hurt is based on a true story, and he really wants you to remember that. Over and over you’ll be bombarded with people mentioning it and even see it written throughout the film, just in case you forgot. The fact that it is supposedly based on a true story may be its undoing, however, as this slowburn slasher doesn’t amount to much.
The film opens with a group of teens camping in the woods only to be brutally murdered by an unknown assailant before it’s revealed that this is a slasher movie being watched by two trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Not only is this a tired mechanic, but it adds little context to Hurt overall, giving it a rough start.
One of the kids ends up at the home of the actual protagonist, Rose (Emily Van Raay), who scares the kid off before meeting up with her sister and boyfriend, Tommy (Andrew Creer), who just returned from a military tour. Tommy is very clearly suffering from PTSD from his time serving, something that will play into the narrative later.
Years ago, I referenced a slew of indie horror movies that were cropping up as “hipster horror,” and while I haven’t mentioned it in some time, I feel the need to reference the phrase again when discussing Hurt. There’s an undeniable arthouse indie vibe to the film: handheld shots galore of grassy fields and a structure that puts human drama in the foreground with the horror elements taking a back seat.
It seems that Mallhi wants to explore the characters of his film more than the actual elements that make it a horror film, something that, if done right, can make for a compelling, thought-provoking piece of cinema, but unfortunately that isn’t the case here. His characters are either bland and underdeveloped or, in the case of Tommy, too stereotypical to take seriously.
The introduction of Tommy’s PTSD involves him totally losing it and screaming at himself in a mirror then, later in the film, taking his aggression out on the walls of a Halloween carnival. Post-traumatic stress involves more than just random violent outbursts, but that’s all we really see here.
After Tommy freaks out on Rose at the Halloween party, he seemingly leaves her there, driving off in their car. She hitches a ride home and the next day finds the car left abandoned on the side of the road with no Tommy to be found. Then we discover that there’s a killer who targeted Rose and her sister, and a game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
Hurt is the kind of movie that seems to actively fight with the audience’s attention, pushing them away at every chance it gets. It’s a visually stylish film that’s well shot, but the unlikable roster of characters and a killer whose motivations are uninteresting at best make this one of Blumhouse’s weaker efforts. Hurt is screening at this year’s Fantasia Festival in Montreal.