Friday, October 1, 2021

HOSTILE (2014) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 1
Total First Time Views: 1
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $30.30 

Hostile (2014) d. Nathan Ambrosioni (France) (89 min) (1st viewing)

When two adopted sisters begin claiming that an escaped mental patient haunting the house of their foster parent, it prompts their mother to reach out to a reality TV show, Adoption S.O.S., for help. However, after the crew arrives on the scene, Mom starts seeing the apparition as well, and the young girls begin making ominous proclamations. With the best of intentions (and despite the fact that they state several times that they can’t interfere with the situation but only document), the two-person crew reaches out to a local psychic, who becomes a de facto exorcist and things proceed to go merrily off the rails.

The big news surrounding Hostile is that Ambrosioni was only 14 when he wrote, directed, edited, and appeared in this little slice of terror (which eventually played at numerous prestigious film festivals including Cannes, Fantasia, and Fantastic Fest), but there’s more to it than just the gimmick of an adolescent at the wheel. It’s a legitimately effective shocker, with part of the charm being that it’s comprised almost entirely of dramatic plot points… you know, the kind that might interest a 14-year-old. There’s the reality TV/found footage angle, aural jump scares galore, dim-witted babysitters, some torture and possession, a Satanic cult, and a boatload of people acting crazy (Mom and the two younger actresses are quite good in this arena). There’s blood puked up, people attacking the camera, contortionists, conspiracies, indictments of the medical community, all of which keeps coming so fast and furious that there is barely time to ask what the hell is going on. The fact that it’s in French somehow all made it easier to buy with the hokum sold via subtitles instead of having to hear the scripted howlers aloud.

I can’t help but applaud what Ambrosioni has managed to accomplish here. It put me in mind of when my friend Brent and I helped write a play in 6th grade called “Trilogy of Terror” (not inspired by the Karen Black TV-movie) made up of three short scary playlets. The school actually let us perform it for the student body. I’m sure it was dumb and horrible and I’m glad there is no record of it anywhere, but reflecting back I found myself wondering what creative types like my peers and I might have gotten up to if we had had the technology now available to teens. (I think part of the reason I’ve never branched into independent filmmaking myself is that I’m always engaged in other activities – both paid and unpaid – and I also have a really short attention span.) Yet, somehow, “Trilogy of Terror” happened and I know it didn’t happen overnight – I mean, we actually rehearsed and learned lines and had fake guns going off backstage, so maybe we could have made a film happen. Hell, Brent made a frickin’ laser and I made a 30-minute video project with lego starships and hand puppets (which, again, has thankfully vanished into the ether) as part of our elementary school advanced practices, so who knows?

Anyway, I’m pleased that this ended up being the first movie reviewed for the Scare-A-Thon, since it feels right in keeping with the kind of fearless creativity that Albany Park Theater Project represents. An added plus is that there are not a lot of rough edges or need for apologies or justifications. (“Well, he’s only a kid…”) It’s a solid piece of work, derivative as it might be, and I’m looking forward to seeing Ambrosioni’s follow-up feature, Therapy, which he made two years later at the ripe old age of 16.

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