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Simon Read [Celluloid 09.15.15] horror

There really is no getting away from the fact that Some Kind of Hate is a bad movie. What is up for debate though is precisely which elements contribute most heavily to its downfall. Is it the lack of character background and motivation? The astonishingly irritating and ubiquitous nu-metal soundtrack? The pedestrian direction, poor acting, uninspired dialogue, or maybe just its inherent unscariness? My vote would be for the fractured, jumbled editing style, which renders the whole affair deeply frustrating, preventing it from ever finding a natural flow, and resulting in a wildly uneven tone throughout. Almost any film can be made at least palatable when presented in a coherent fashion, but sadly Some Kind of Hate fails even to tell its story in a straightforwardly competent way. So, let's get into this.

We're introduced to our protagonist, Lincoln (Ronen Rubinstein), a somewhat emo-ish teenager with anger management issues, as he quarrels with his alcoholic father before storming out of his house and assaulting the local high school bully with a fork. Lincoln is promptly sent to a reform school in the desert, where he generally mopes around, finding himself the target of yet more bullies, while also falling for a trouble-making cheerleader named Kaitlin (Grace Phipps). After a particularly brutal run-in with his new school's lead thug, Willie (Maestro Harrell), Lincoln finds sanctuary in an old haunted barn, where he issues a curse on his tormentors, and discovers that the ghost of a former pupil named Moira (Sierra McCormick) has become determined to exact vengeance on his behalf. From here, the story follows a basic connect-the-dots narrative in which the usual spate of dark secrets are uncovered, as bullies and staff are routinely dispatched by this tormented spirit.

This all sounds like a fairly standard, supernatural slasher, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But director and co-writer Adam Egypt Mortimer introduces his story and its characters in such clunking fashion that we're consistently at a loss as to with what and whom we're supposed to concern ourselves. Scene follows scene with a tremendous sense of disconnect, and little in the way of explanation. So, while a character might appear to embark on one kind of plot thread, the film will abruptly cut to an unrelated scene, and shift to a different tone, with the same character discussing something new. Couple all of this with the distinct lack of geography given to the school itself, and it all feels terribly disjointed and alienating. This film needs an editor, a re-write, and a much clearer sense of what it's going for, and how it intends to go about it.

But, surely we can sympathise with poor Lincoln, right? Well, not really. Lincoln is a victim, absolutely, but a remarkably petulant and annoying one. He spends most of his time huffing and puffing at how unfairly he's been treated, yet all we want is to see him given a good kick up the backside and to be told to go clean out his bedroom and to pull up his trousers. One particularly memorable (for all the wrong reasons) scene features our hero earnestly gifting a playlist of furious thrash metal to Kaitlin, while explaining that sometimes he feels so angry he just wants to put his head through the wall, but that in listening to his music, he can imagine driving a tank over his enemies and crushing their skulls. It doesn't help, when attempting to take this scene seriously, that actor Rubinstein is so clearly in his mid-twenties. Oh, and it goes without saying that Kaitlin simply loves the playlist, because all cheerleaders adore aggressive hardcore screamo.

In the role of Kaitlin, Phipps is a curiously absent presence. I don't think she had one defining characteristic, aside from appearing in scenes while speaking in a stilted monotone. The supporting characters do fare better though, such as Lincoln's geeky friend Isaac (Spencer Breslin) who provides a few lines of much needed comic relief, and the school's creepy guru-like head teacher Ivorson (Michael Polish), a bearded ethno spiritualist who uses quasi-religious wisdom in a misguided attempt to reform his disinterested pupils. While both of these characters were well played, they were supporting leads far too bland to carry a film, and the general quality of the script is so poor that none of the actors involved (good or bad) ever really stands a chance. There's also a stereotypical cop character, who blunders around while making sarcastic comments and shrugging off the various murders as unimportant. It struck me how radical this film might have been had they introduced a really smart and effective cop into the story, who took things seriously and made a difference. Oh well.

It actually took a while before I realised that Some Kind of Hate was a supernatural horror film. The establishing act led me to the assumption that it would be a revenge style thriller or some kind of harrowing morality tale. As a vengeful ghost though, Moira is a big let-down. She's a kind of emo ghost (seriously, but bear with me) who inflicts injuries on people by cutting herself with razor blades, then magically transferring her wounds onto her victims. I guess it's an original idea, even if the film leaves itself open to criticism based on an implied trivialisation of self-harm. Emo-sploitation if you will. The central problem here though, is that Moira is not in the least bit scary. From the get-go, we see her in full daylight, sporting pale make-up and ketchup wounds, and she simply looks like an actress in costume, barking ugly words at people as she slashes herself. There were points where I suspected the film was feebly attempting to channel Ringu with its themes of revenge and anguish, but given that that film is probably one of the most frightening horror movies ever made, they really couldn't be any further apart in terms of scares or atmosphere. (The two films this actually reminded me of were Ghost Ship and Silent Hill: Revelation - make of that what you will.) That said, McCormick is not a bad actress, and impresses in several scenes, giving her all to an extremely unforgiving role.

From a technical perspective, the film is as least passable. There are some nice shots of the desert and surrounding countryside, and the camera doesn't fall over at any point, but scenes filmed at night have a grainy, washed out quality, and it's often quite hard to determine exactly what's going on between characters. This is perhaps the curse of the low budget indie horror, but when you can't light a shot properly, you're really doing something wrong.

It is safe to say that I did not like this film one bit. Towards the end I did begin to wonder if there was a religious overtone of some kind, as one character mentions forgiveness "from above", while another unsuccessfully attempts to use his spiritual beliefs to defeat the curse, before a sudden and unexpected scene of self-immolation brought to mind the famous photograph of Buddhist monk Quang Duc's fiery act of protest during the Vietnam War. I realized then just how much credit I was giving this film - that I'd put more thought into it than the filmmakers.

Some Kind of Hate is available theatrically and on VOD and iTunes on September 28.

Recommended Release: Ringu

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ChrisR (7 years ago) Reply

Brilliant review as ever. It sounds like no 'Pumpkinhead'.

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