Labelling a movie a “feminist slasher” is a bold move. The f word carries with it certain expectations that, to be fair, few films will be able to live up to–regardless of quality. Some Kind Of Hate, the debut feature from comic book artist turned director Adam Egypt Mortimer, will be unfairly treated chiefly because of this label. But, if you try to put all of the associated notions aside, it’s a decent paranormal slasher in its own right.
The flick follows tortured teenager Lincoln, who is sent away to a centre for troubled kids after fighting back against one of his bullies. The institution, isolated out in the desert, is populated by the kind of navel-gazing brats who, one suspects, are acting out because of their first world problems as opposed to any genuine mental health issues. Lincoln inevitably finds someone to crush on, and somebody else to fight with, but in the process of doing so, he unsuspectingly conjures the spirit of a previous attendee who wreaks havoc on his tormentors.
During a rather awkward, post-screening Frightfest Q&A, Egypt Mortimer was at pains to explain how Some Kind Of Hate is not about a ghost. Moira, the villain, was envisioned as a Freddy Krueger-esque paranormal serial killer who can transcend time and space accordingly. Unfortunately, this isn’t properly communicated (aside from the fact, as he pointed out himself, she seems to have a reflection). Moira, at the best of times, seems more like a ghoulish phantom than anything else. More pressingly, she isn’t a particularly frightening presence anyway.
The girl is essentially an emo kid, a cutter whose powers centre around inflicting pain on others by first inflicting it upon herself. She’s clad in head-to-toe Hot Topic, with a necklace of razor-blades around her neck and, given her obsession with Lincoln and her unstoppable quest to win his affections, she comes across more needy than anything else. It’s not for lack of trying, though, as she’s constantly coated in buckets of blood and is afforded a pretty good jump scare as her introduction. But the kills aren’t strong and her aesthetic is sad, not scary.
Some Kind Of Hate boasts some strong performances and the script, from Egypt Mortimer and first-timer Brian DeLeeuw, is smart. But there’s an inescapable sense that the movie was envisioned as a franchise starter, rather than a standalone horror flick, that makes it difficult to connect with. It also has a lot of important issues to discuss that don’t fit within the greater narrative.
Egypt Mortimer clearly has big ideas about self-harm, teenage sexuality, bullying, and identity. If he’d just settled on one to focus on, maybe Some Kind Of Hate would’ve felt more cohesive. Instead, it veers wildly from scenes of bullying and crying to gory violence and scenic, art-house shots of the surrounding countryside. None of it really rings true as a result.
When the flick screened at Frightfest, it wasn’t applauded and, as a result, the director was understandably annoyed during the discussion that followed. He explained how Some Kind Of Hate was envisioned as an indie drama with slasher movie characters, and that Moira was supposed to be a strong female character, juxtaposed against the usual Jasons, Michaels and Freddys of the world.
Although Egypt Mortimer should be praised for trying to do something new, his villain isn’t exactly progressive. She’s weak and evil, spends most of the movie chasing after the affections of a man and, when the big reveal comes, she seems a bit pathetic even in spite of what she’s been through. Taken purely as a slasher movie killer, her weapon (a razor blade) is a bit tame and, although she can transcend time and space, she’s not a force to be reckoned with in any real way.
Some Kind Of Hate‘s most interesting moments come from its examination of teen problems–especially when the institution’s administrators believe Lincoln is the real culprit of Moira’s crimes. Rubenstein, although obviously just a pretty boy in a bad goth wig (he looks like baby Eric Draven), does a decent job in the lead but it’s Grace Phipps’ bad girl ingenue who steals the show.
The movie shares certain DNA with All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, thanks to its moodiness, the dusty, sun-bleached setting and a lead girl in charge. But Phipps is a much tougher, brooding and more layered character than the titular chick in that more accomplished slasher (annoyingly, she’s also involved in the film’s most ill-advised sequence, in which she seemingly derives sexual pleasure from being cut).
In one of the movie’s more insightful moments, she discovers the corpse of a fellow student and, after looking shocked for about ten seconds, she quickly stoops down to get a pic of it on her iPhone. If the tone was more in line with that moment, in general, the film might have been a bit meatier but, as it is, Some Kind Of Hate seems like it has something important to say but then doesn’t really say much of anything at all.
To be fair, the flick looks gorgeous. The Californian vistas are captured beautifully, and the location itself (a functioning summer camp) is terrific. The make-up on Moira, and the SFX work in general, is pretty great, with gallons of blood in full effect. There’s a bad ass, rock ‘n’ roll score. Everything ticks along nicely, and it’s good fun while it lasts–the movie certainly isn’t a slog, and it’s not as dumb or blatantly money-grabbing as many modern slashers.
The blame for its failure lies solely at Moira’s feet. Sierra McCormick, a Disney alum, looks like a poor man’s Abigail Breslin and is about as good of an actor. There are moments when she’s crying but there are no tears coming out, and it’s difficult to be fearful of someone who, when it comes down to it, is little more than a bullied, lonely teenager. Even when she faces up to those who have hurt her, it’s a moment that showcases her weakness rather than her strength.
As a dissection of the cruel side of teenage culture, Some Kind Of Hate is mildly entertaining. As a mindless slasher movie, it’s bloody, dumb and reasonably good fun. As a mixture of both it doesn’t quite hit its marks, but there’s enough here to while away a lazy Saturday evening without getting too annoyed.
WICKED RATING: (4/10)
Director(s): Adam Egypt Mortimer
Writer(s): Adam Egypt Mortimer, Brian De Leeuw
Stars: Grace Phipps, Spencer Breslin, Ronen Rubenstein, Sierra McCormick
Studio/ Production Co: Caliber Media Company
Length: 82 minutes