Hate Crime, the latest feature by James Cullen Bressack, is not an easy movie to watch. It’s important to state this first because any of the elements that are discussed below are completely moot if you can’t get past the brutality and depravity that flashes across the screen at a merciless level. With that disclaimer in place, let’s discuss.
The basic premise of Hate crime follows a family that experiences the dark side of home invasion. That’s really all that should, or could, be said about the plot because the rest of the film plays to the visceral reactions of the audience. This is not a movie about a protagonist who reaches a crisis point, discovers a lesson, and is better for it by the end of the film. No, Hate Crime is an experience, more of a visceral portrayal of real life evil than any traditional narrative.
That portrayal is the most successful element of Hate Crime. Filmed as found footage in impressively long, extended takes, Bressack excels at capturing the emotion and tension that an event like this would contain. With the family camcorder, which starts by recording innocuous familial interactions, the entire film takes place in real time and, despite several hidden edits, gives the illusion of one continuous shot. This difficult technical achievement results in a real sense of claustrophobia and dread. It is said that the camera is meant to put the audience in the action. In Hate Crime, the camera oppressively traps the audience in the action.
This is that point where Hate Crime moves past film criticism and into personal taste. Bressack did not make Hate Crime for everyone. They pull no punches in their portrayal of true evil and despicable actions. So much so, that a large portion of the audience will probably not even be capable of making it through the film. The filmmakers have no real interest in holding the hand of the viewer, declining to offer even a glimmer of hope within the darkness of the events within Hate Crime. This dedication to their dark vision will either appeal to a viewer or not. No argument of structure, theme, or performance can persuade someone to appreciate Hate Crime. In this case, the medium is as powerful as the message. If one can’t tolerate the medium, the message will be lost.
The message of Hate Crime depends greatly on the performances of its actors. The idea put forward depends heavily on the connection of the family with the viewer of the film. Luckily, the group of actors playing said family are particularly well cast. The stand out, though, is Debbie Diesel who plays the daughter Lindsay. Her raw portrayal of a teen girl put into a unfathomably terrible situation is a real bright spot within Hate Crime. Her performance gives the audience a much needed emotional hook to grasp onto.
In the end, that emotional hook is what Hate Crime’s success hangs on. If the viewer can find that emotional connection the film will most likely work for them. If, though, the actions on screen take the forefront in the viewer’s mind Hate Crime can slip into seeming like violence for violence sake. There is no doubt that this kind of evil exists in our world, which is possibly why Hate Crime is so disturbing. The question, then, is are you the kind of person that enjoys the brutal examination of this real life evil? If so, Hate Crime is a well crafted exploration that is right up your alley. If not, perhaps you should go with something a little more lighthearted, like “The Last House on the Left” or “Hostel”.