The Hatred


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Hatred
"What saves the film is its photography."

When times are hard, strong men band together; weak men sow division, we are told at the outset of John Law's chilly d├ębut film. But what about girls, those ostensibly least powerful in this brutal landscape? As in Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider, a girl might look for another source of power, drawing on ritual, prayer or dark magic - call it what you will - to provide her with a champion. And behold, a pale horse. And his name that sat on him was Death; and Hell followed after.

We never know the name of the Law's young heroine. She's an ordinary girl of perhaps 14 years, living out in the woods with her family, who seem to have kept a small farm and, likely, hunted and trapped food. When hungry soldiers come their way, they don't have much to give. The result is a bloodbath, with the girl, elsewhere at the time, sinking to her knees as she finds her slaughtered sisters lying on the bare wooden boards. Not far away, among the trees, a man is hanging by the neck - a solder who disagreed with his comrades and paid with his life. It is this man whom she calls upon to accompany her through the frozen waste in search of revenge.

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The story here is slight, relying on metaphysical weight which is barely sufficient to carry it even though its brief 59 minute running time. Narration which at first feels strong soon becomes monotonous, despite it competent delivery. There is no deep meaning to be found in the story that we haven't encountered numerous times before. What saves the film is its photography. Black-clad characters - the girl in a striking top hat - move through the crisp white landscape as if driven by some unseen force like the gravity that causes water to drip from the branches overhead until it freezes, forming rows of icicles which resemble razor-sharp teeth. Everything about this place is sharp, brittle. The trees themselves are towering, skeletal things. Guns appear like branches jutting out from human arms. A stream is a dark line etched into the earth.

In the magistrate's house where the girl is telling her story, unwilling to come up with lies that might excuse her, everything is suddenly nuanced. Warm brown wood holds multiple tones. Clothing is soft and textured. The facial expressions of the other characters fluctuate, even as hers remains as hard as stone. There's a sense that she doesn't belong to this world - that, perhaps, what it chooses to do to her is no longer relevant.

Though really far too slender a tale from which to built a feature, spare as it is, this is a handsome piece of work and a strong calling card.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2020
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The Hatred packshot
An orphaned young girl conjures an executed soldier back from the dead and together they deliver hell in the Blackfoot territory of the late 1800's.

Director: John Law

Writer: John Law

Starring: Zelda Adams, John Law, Lulu Adams, Stephen O'Donnell

Year: 2018

Runtime: 58 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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