Horrortoberfest Day 16 – Hunger (2009)

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The last two movies we’ve had for Captive Week have featured tormentors that were fairly hands on.  This week we take a look at a more detached type of movie. Hunger features five strangers that find themselves in a small dark space after being drugged and kidnapped from their homes. With no provisions beyond some barrels of water, they are faced with the dilemma of what they are willing to do to survive. Since anytime you have a movie like this the comparisons to Saw come out; I think one of the most interesting differences is that the puppet master of the situation is entirely hands off.  No “I’d like to play a game.” No notes or videos explaining anything. Just people thrown into a nightmarish situation with no idea what is going on.

As the entirety of the plot takes place in what is basically two sections of a small cave, the real driving force of the movie is the interactions between the characters and how they evolve based on the situation they are in. When they find each other in the darkness you immediately get a sense of who each of them is. A logical thinker looking for patterns and explanations in why they would be here. A fixer trying to do something to get them out of the situation. A victim looking to stay safe and distrustful of those around her. A sad loner that wants to avoid conflict and keep to himself. An aggressive macho-man with something to prove that only looks out for himself. How these personalities clash and evolve through dealing with extreme hardship is the main cause of tension.

The acting in this was quite good, which it would really need to be given the premise. The Scientist (how the credits refer to the person behind the events) breaks the people down into the categories I mentioned above in his notes but the film does a good job of not making them into caricatures of themselves. The Scientist himself is actually a very interesting figure. He never says a word throughout the entire movie yet still manages to convey quite a bit through his expressions and body language. We do get a couple flashbacks that help explain a little bit of why he would do this to a group of people but even then he is entirely silent.

I’d like to take a moment to talk further on the character of The Scientist. He makes for a wonderful stand-in for the audience. It was especially amusing for me while watching it because I would find myself leaning in and taking notes right as the movie would cut to The Scientist doing the same. We have this voyeur that wants to see this horrible gruesome display play out just as much as the audience. Putting on or creating a movie like this makes us complicit in the suffering of the characters. We watch, impassive and removed, while these characters go through hell. The people in the pit don’t know that they are being watched but one of them, towards the end, has this amazing break down where he just starts yelling over and over again, “Stop looking at me!”

The movies also strongly deals with the theme of where you draw the line for retaining humanity vs. survival. You find out that the people he chose were those that had killed before whether out of self-defense or a mercy kill for someone suffering. At what point does something terrible become justifiable? Is there a point where circumstances can cause something like murder to become acceptable and if so; are there things even more horrible than that that can be justified? Hunger also delves into how doing something so awful, even under the most justified circumstances, leaves you with a stain that can corrupt you.

In all, I think Hunger was an excellent movie. It’s not perfect, of course.  The set design could have been a little better given that it was all taking place in pretty much one room. There were also a couple hokey moments but we can forgive that since the rest was fairly strong.  I’d give this a 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

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