Anguish and Family Blood director Sonny Mallhi leans into more familiar territory with his true life slasher Hurt, a film that digs into real-life drama with a cold, bloody knife. Soaking up the dark, cool atmosphere of a Halloween night, Hurt has all the pieces of a great slasher flick, but does it ever put them all together? Not so much. In this one, Rose is off to the village’s annual horror show with her husband whose recent return from the war has left him with unshakable psychological trauma. There, everything is fake—the scar, the red paper blood and the harness on the hanged woman—except for death, which is all too real.
There may be no better setting for a horror movie than Halloween night—Carpenter made sure of it back in 1978—so Mallhi’s film almost immediately pulls on the threads of slasher nostalgia. It completely embraces everything we love about October 31st. Grainy old horror films are flickering on TVs, costumed kids are running down the street with bags of candy clutched in their hands, and haunted houses, tinged in orange and red, are full of life (and death). It’s all there. It’s an aesthetic that simply works in horror, especially when there’s attention to detail like it is here.
So then the story starts to evolve around the world Mallhi has created, first hinting at Rose and her complicated relationship with her husband, Tommy. After fighting in war, Tommy returns home with a damaged mind. There are no other details about him—what you see is what you get, which is a broken man coming unhinged. In a way, it’s like the film is winking at the audience. What could possibly go wrong on Halloween night? Mallhi is just setting it all up, rather quickly too, because the horrors of Hurt unfold almost immediately.
Outside of that, however, the story is almost nonexistent, leaving its characters to do all of the heavy lifting. The problem, unfortunately, was that the characters themselves are shallow and uninteresting. At the beginning of the film there’s a great moment between Rose and a trick-or-treater where she scares the child away with a made-up story about the scar on her face—there’s more personality in that tiny moment than anything else we see in the entire film. So despite planting itself firmly in one of horror’s most entertaining sub-genres, Hurt is as uninspired as it gets.
And while it does start to hit its stride in the final act, it wasn’t quite enough to make the film feel like anything special—just more of the same, really. Most of the horror is suggested with Mallhi quickly cutting away from it, leaving the gory details up to the imagination. It was one of the few things that made the film feel like it had an identity. But once again, just as Hurt starts to find some footing, it never figures out how to put all the pieces together—there’s a twist that’s so spontaneous and forced into the narrative that it cheapens everything that came before it. What this one boils down to is a semi-slasher that’s ultimately crippled by its total lack of interesting characters and a flimsy story that never gives us a reason to be scared of its killer. While the atmosphere of Halloween thrives in this one, almost nothing else does.