The Pitch Drop Experiment is a long-term experiment that began in 1930 to measure the flow of a piece of pitch over time. Only nine-pitch droplets have formed and dropped off in the 91 years it has been going. The last one was in April 2014. I bring this up because the film Hurt moves with the same experiment speed, minus its flair for the dramatic.
Opening with a film-within-a-film, Hurt is the story of Rose (Emily Van Raay) and her husband Tommy (Andrew Creer), and not the Johnny Cash themed film we should have got. Tommy is a returned soldier with PTSD, trying to readjust to civilian life. They celebrate Halloween in their small, sleepy, definitely nothing-bad-has-ever-happened-here town. After Tommy experiences a panic attack, Rose convinces him to visit the local Halloween Horrorshow in a Hay Field. Because that’s a cure for panic attacks, apparently. But things take a turn when something follows them home. Along with Rose’s sister Lily (Stephanie Moran) and her husband Mark (Bradley Hamilton), they find themselves at the mercy of a sadistic stalker who wants to make them the next Halloween attraction.
Hurt is a shot film that suddenly found itself having to fill a ninety-minute runtime. Low on the action, the film tries to compensate by filling the void with establishing shots or painfully drawn out static shots of the characters going through straightforward motions. There is a rule that if no action is happening within a shot, it should only last three-to-five seconds because an audience will switch off. Hurt, trying to reinvent the wheel, draws many of its non-actions shots out to at least a minute or two, thus making the wheel square.
What begins as beautiful cinematography soon turns into tedious shots of houses, fields, and, somehow, a killer dragging a body. Hurt made the action of a masked antagonist pulling a body boring, which is something of an achievement. While it’s nice to see that it doesn’t use jump scares, the lack of anything happening makes moments that would be unsettling feel mildly annoying.
It’s not simply that its pace is slow; the plot is all over the place. There is no reason why any of the plot is happening to Rose and Tommy or their friends. There is nothing to say why they have been singled out in a place filled with people, save made because Tommy heard something. And apparently, that is enough for everything else to happen from the midpoint onwards. Despite this, so little happens in this film that it becomes a struggle to write something about it.
You think this is a different film for the first few minutes, but then, nope, it’s just the film Rose is watching. You think this will be a film about Tommy and his PTSD, confronting his demons, but that get chucked out as well. The chronology jumps at times; there is a repeated motif about this being based on true events and then tricking us that would have made a good film great. Hurt, as the previous 506 words have tried to bring across, is not a good film, so it feels pretentious at best.
It could have been a good film. Great even. All the filmmakers had to do was shift the focus onto Tommy. His struggle with PTSD makes the audience question if the stalker is there or a manifestation of his personal torments; the film-within-a-film could be a coping mechanism for some unresolved guilt from combat action. All the pieces are there. Unfortunately, they’re in a bin. And the bin is on fire.
Hurt is available now.