James Cullen Bressack Commits A “Hate Crime” Against His Audience — Is That Such A Bad Thing?
When you consider the nature of the “found footage” horror film, it’s a wonder that something like director (and co-writer, along with Jarret Cohen) James Cullen Bressack’s 2013 low-budget indie offering, HATE CRIME, didn’t happen sooner. After all, the immediacy of the genre — at least when handled correctly — lends itself pretty readily to gutter-level nasty pieces of business like this one, and make no mistake — despite the fact that this flick takes place largely within the confines of a single home, thus lending the visceral and disturbing proceedings an extra air of both claustrophobia and physical/psychological violation, it really does never leave the gutter.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice are quite ugly, and deserve ugly treatment. They’re often quite brutal, as well, and Bressack doesn’t shy away from that, either. In a way, this film functions as a kind of spiritual successor to trail-blazing exploitation flicks like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and GOODBYE, UNCLE TOM that end up critiquing the subjects they’re exploring by adopting the very same excesses that they’re condemning — and while that certainly doesn’t make for a very pleasant viewing experience, it’s still, I would argue, a necessary one.
Consider : the “action” here starts with the the matriarch of a Jewish family (played by Debbie Diesel) that has just moved into a new neighborhood getting violently raped in front of her husband (Greg Depetro) and kids (Nicholas Clark, Sloane Morgan Siegel, and Maggie Wagner) by the leader of a rabid triumvirate of neo-Nazi thugs (identified only as One, Two, and Three and portrayed by Jody Barton, Tim Moran, and Ian Roberts, respectively) who have invaded their home for no other reason than the fact that they hate Jews — and it only gets worse from there.
Honestly, I wouldn’t blame anyone for cutting out on this thing at about the ten-minute mark, but if you have the guts to stick with it, you’ll find yourself immersed in a sick and twisted corner of the world that we don’t like to admit exists, but that we must confront if we’re ever going to overcome it, so —- shit, I dunno. I can’t say you’ll develop a deeper understanding of what makes monsters like One, Two, and Three tick if you watch it all the way through, nor can I say that you’ll walk away from it a changed person or anything like that, but I can say, without a doubt, that you’ll remember this movie, and that’s surely worth at least a little bit of praise right there, isn’t it?
As mentioned at the outset, the conceit of using a home video camera to capture the entire sordid (to say the least) episode really works to Bressack and Co.’s advantage, as well. “Mockumentary” horror may be old hat by now, but it certainly adds a frisson of danger to HATE CRIME and drives home the fact that this nightmare is, indeed, a very personal one — even if it could be any Jewish (or black, or Asian, or gay, or whatever) family standing in the place of our protagonists here. And the fact that these assholes are recording everything to upload it onto the internet and gain new recruits to their twisted “cause”? That’s just plain sick and wrong — and, again, also quite effective.
The other thing to be wary of for those with a weak stomach — without giving away too much by way of “spoilers,” let me just say that there’s no “happy ending” here. This is not a revenge film. The criminals don’t “get theirs” by the time it’s over. This is a flick that throws you in at the deep end, assaults your senses non-stop until it’s over, and nobody comes out a “winner.” Once more, kinds like these things play out, I’d imagine, in real life. Bressack has no intention of sugar-coating the vile reality of what he’s portraying here, and while the actors occasionally veer into OTT melodrama, by an large their ability to “keep it real” adds to the uneasy feeling that HATE CRIME continuously drives in like a stake through your heart.
If you’re getting the idea by now that this probably isn’t a film for you, then ya know what? You’re probably right. Avoid it. But if you enjoy (well, maybe enjoy isn’t the right word — let’s go with “if you’re prone to”) watching the kind of thing that dares you to keep going, and that confirms anything and everything you’ve always suspected about a deeply twisted side of (fortunately only) some of our fellow human beings, well — settle in, buckle up, and get ready for an almost pathologically uncompromising time.
There are numerous ways you can experience HATE CRIME for yourself should you choose to — Unearthed Films have released it on DVD and Blu-ray, for instance — but if you’re as “hooked on streaming” as I am, then I humbly suggest giving it a go at The Movie And Music Network, where it can be accessed via their “Terror Channel” section. This is a very promising new site I’ve stumbled across in recent days that has a good number of recent indie horrors, a lot of Mill Creek-style public domain exploitation gems, and hey, there’s even an entire channel devoted to stuff from our good friends at Something Weird Video, so my advice would be to check it out now, since what they’re doing definitely seems worth supporting to me. You may not find Bressack’s little opus to be very much to your liking, but you’ll definitely find some other stuff there that is.
For an alternate take, check out what Doug Tilley had to say when he covered HATE CRIME for No-Budget Nightmares!