A Jewish family, that just arrived in a new neighborhood, are recording their youngest son’s birthday celebrations on video when their home is suddenly invaded by a bunch of crystal-meth-crazed Neo-Nazi lunatics.
We open with a home video showing a young boy’s birthday party. The whole family is there, ready to celebrate, when the dad, who is filming the event on his video camera, hears something in the other room. He goes to check it out and pretty quick we see three ski-masked guys in the house, waving a gun at the family members and yelling and swearing. To the film’s credit, this is all within the first couple minutes of Hate Crime, a new found footage shocker from James Cullen Bressack (director of To Jennifer, 13/13/13, and segments of Theatre of the Deranged, among other things). Unfortunately, that will be one of the last compliments I’m able to give the movie. So hold on tight, this might be a bumpy ride, but nowhere near as bumpy as the nausea-inducing shaky camera employed throughout the seemingly endless 73 minute running time.
The three home invading guys in masks, who go by the names One, Two, and Three, are also meth-heads (I think that’s what they are snorting) and neo-Nazis, too. And the family whose home they break into happen to be Jewish. Hence the title of the movie. The attack seems to be without provocation, as the family had just recently moved to the neighborhood, so we can assume it’s a combination of the fact that they are Jewish and a Strangers-style, “because you were home,” motive. Not that it really matters, either way, because the actual plot of the movie resides solely within the gratuitous, exploitative scenes of violence and torture and the over the top swearing and ethnic slurs, you know, to remind us that these three guys are mean. Oh, and they also decide to film the entire thing on dad’s video camera, handing the handheld camera off to one another as they switch off who is performing the abuse.
For real, the entire movie is these guys swearing and torturing the family, up until the end where there is a bit of a turnabout and a brief cat and mouse game, but then just back to normal. The mom is, of course, raped, first by one of the Nazis, then by her own son who is forced to do so at gunpoint. The daughter is also molested, but only by one of the thugs (as if that makes it any better, right?) A swastika is branded onto flesh. Bullets fly through heads with little to no blood spattering. People are tied down with the loosest of knots and can sometimes be seen pulling the rope down in order to make it look like they are trapped. The family almost convinces us that they are scared, but their acting doesn’t let us feel anything for them. And that wobbly camera, my god, man. I do not automatically write off “found footage” films, but I had to take a break on this one about halfway through due to a nasty headache.
Based on the words that come across the screen at the end, a follow-up, if you will, regarding what happens to the remaining characters, accompanied by a message from the director, it would seem that Bressack made the movie with the intention of making a social statement. But it’s tough to see it as such, given that the characters are all one-dimensional, there is essentially no background info of any kind given, and the entire movie is just a first person P.O.V. of torturing and humiliating people.
I don’t want to say that Hate Crime is a complete waste of time, as I always try to find the good in any low budget, independently produced film. This one is a tough one though. Aside from the annoying, extreme-shake camera work, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, the dialogue is pretty bad, and even the violence is unbelievable. I’ve never seen so many people get shot with so little blood coming out of the wounds. I mean, I guess it’s better than bad CGI, right? Once you get through all of that, get down to the bare bones of everything, you still have a very weak storyline at the center of the film, something that will almost always make a movie fail. There isn’t any suspense at any point of the film, an aspect that may have helped it in the long run, but at the same time none of the “benefits” of a found footage film were employed either. After taking away all of that, we’re really not left with much good to talk about. Maybe next time.