Halloween has come and gone (or so I'm told!) but it always warms my heart to see Samhain-themed horror movies come out any other time of the year than October - like two weeks before Christmas, for example! Writer and Director Sonny Mallhi's HURT may have been finished for a few years now, but it's finally gotten the release that it rightfully deserves this past weekend, and after seeing it looked like a slasher based around Halloween time, I knew it was a movie I had to check out as soon as I could. And a Halloween time slasher it is! But one thing that separates this cat and mouse style flick from a lot of the others is that it actually has a pretty deep emotional background to it that I honestly wasn't expecting and didn't really appreciate until the credits began to roll. Mindless slashers are a ton of fun as audiences wait in anticipation to see not only who dies but in what brutal ways the writers can come up with to kill off the often meaningless characters. While Hurt may not be the most innovative when it comes the kills themselves, it's not the actual killing that makes this film a fun on-edge slasher - it's the anticipation of who the fuck is chasing around our main character and her family. As it turns out, Mallhi was an executive producer on 2008's The Strangers - and while the film loosely feels like the coveted masked slasher film from 13 years ago (oh my god! 13 years!), Hurt definitely has this heavy emotional buildup in it's first half that gives just a little more heart to the film than the Hollywood film. It may not be the most memorable film we've seen released this year, but Hurt was nothing short of a great watch and an awesome little horror to watch in the dark in the middle of the night. Fans of films that have some pretty mental masked killers and some on-edge kills would definitely dig this twisted little slasher from Mallhi! Just remember that it's not so fun when it happens to you.
Hurt follows the story of a military wife named Rose (Emily Van Raay) who lives out in the woods in a house by herself. Her soldier husband Tommy (Andrew Creer) returns unannounced and surprises Rose right at her favorite time of the year: Halloween. And while it's obviously great to have him home, it becomes apparently quite quickly that Tommy has changed since leaving for the service and is troubled with some serious PTSD. Tommy seems to fall in and out of mental health episodes, seemingly disconnecting from his feelings for Rose and kinda giving her a "cold shoulder" in some scenes. Flashbacks to their past reveal that Tommy wasn't always like this, and he suggests that the two of them do their favorite Halloween activity and check out a haunted hayride and haunted house. It is there that Roses' nightmare begins as Tommy's PTSD haunts him more than the rides and he runs off into the night, leaving Rose stranded at the haunted house. But what she doesn't know is things are must more sinister than they appear: a masked slasher is about to embark on a killing spree, and it begins with Tommy. Will Rose be able to track down her husband and save him from death, or will she, too, fall victim to the Halloween killer?! Find out in... HURT!
The film definitely takes its sweet time setting up its emotional base that the film stands on, and while it feel may feel pretty slow paced, it's actually progressing a decent and intriguing little backstory that definitely grabs at you a little. Watching Tommy snap in and out of these mental episodes can be tough to see, and it really shows how on-edge both him and his relationship with Rose are. You want to see them win, you want to see them happy. And seeing them have fun at the haunted hayride is awesome, but what goes down there is just the beginning of the worst night of their lives. The film for the most part exclusively follows Van Raay's performance and how the events unfold from her perspective - and the star of this flick absolutely fucking rocks the part. Audiences will see her go through these ups and downs first as a reaction to her husbands up and downs, then strictly breakdowns as the dreadful night unfolds. Van Raay has these hopeful eyes whenever she's around her husband and you can just see them get crushed when his episode begins, and you can see the physical fucking agony on her face as the body count begins to rise. Her performance in the last half hour of the film is just as stellar as it is in the first half hour of the film, and the casting of Van Raay as the films star was definitely a killer choice. The acting of the additional cast members were pretty on point too, but since the film is pretty intimate with Van Raay's performance, she definitely shines through this film.
When it comes to the killer, let me just say this (to avoid any spoilers): you see it pretty much the perfect amount. Hurt isn't oversaturated with the killer's appearance, yet it's not a mystery who it is by the end of the film - so viewers are getting that nice blend of "here they are, now they're not!" I love when movies like this do that, because I don't wanna be all up in a killers face the entire duration of the movie nor do I want to see the slasher for just the last 30 seconds of the film before the credits roll. Hurt nailed the balance and I felt like that definitely needed to be mentioned here! And like I mentioned before, the kills honestly were not anything too creative or out of the ordinary for simple slashers like this, but I wasn't expecting some over-the-top Victor Crowley style kills either; the movie has the kills it needs to do the job, and at the end of the day, that's really all it's about.
I hate to be that guy comparing the director to his past work, but honestly, if you liked The Strangers then Hurt will definitely be right up your alley. It's a fun, sadistic little horror that I'd be excited to see a sequel to, as it sets up a nice little backstory that is pretty fucking wicked for what it is. If you go into it knowing not to expect complete bloodshed and gore (don't get me wrong, there's definitely blood), then Hurt would be a fangtastic rental for slasher fans. And while it may not be the most memorable of all the new horrors we've seen released this year, it's absolutely a welcomed addition to our October playlist for a date night in, maybe after hitting up haunted houses all night. The final consensus is it's definitely worth both your time and your money - check it out!