The Hatred (2017)
★★ / ★★★★
Michael G. Kehoe’s “The Hatred” begins promisingly as it comes across unconcerned when it comes to how supernatural horror films ought to begin. With an extended introductory portion set in the 1960s, which lasts between fifteen to twenty minutes, we are given a near complete understanding of how an ordinary farmhouse becomes haunted. However, its ability to surprise does not remain throughout. When it makes the jump to present time, it is reduced to yet another horror film in which a babysitter must protect a child from an evil entity.
The picture lacks an ear for dialogue coupled with rather inexperienced or unpolished acting across the board. Notice that exchanges do not last longer than a minute. The longer characters speak, it becomes all the more apparent that performers are merely reciting memorized lines rather than feeling them, actually walking in the shoes of characters to be portrayed. This creates a feeling of watching a soap opera—a critical mistake because some key lines are designed to establish the mythos of a mysterious artifact.
Sarah Davenport plays Regan, the babysitter hired for the weekend by her former professor and his wife. Regan is accompanied by three friends from college (Gabrielle Bourne, Bayley Corman, Alisha Wainwright) who are astounded by the fact that Regan actually wishes to live in a rural community for a job. While four babysitters instead of one is a fresh decision, the script fails to discern among these personalities in a meaningful way. It does not help that the performers tend to rest on a limited range of delivering lines. Perhaps a standout is Samantha, the blonde we expect to bite the dust first. But a twist: she is the most academically curious of the bunch. Is this subversion enough for the character to make it through the horrifying weekend?
The scares are by-the-numbers and unexciting. Of course, the night is dark and full of rain; lights flash on and off as the house makes creaking noises behind the walls and down the hall. And when visual effects are employed to show the malevolent entity, the sudden boom of the score is bound to dispirit experienced horror viewers. Far more effective are scenes where Samantha goes through old papers and photographs, even going online for further research, as she and her friends attempt to decipher the secrets of its former residents.
Clearly not without potential, especially when it touches upon a certain group’s history with the occult, “The Hatred” might have been a stronger work had the writer-director not limited his film too much with genre conventions in order to be more palatable to modern audiences. Imagine this piece shot through the eyes of a mid-‘70s to early-‘80s horror fanatic. It would have been a different beast entirely.