Director: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot
If you’ve never seen a horror-dipped thriller, this is a fairly good introduction. In typical haunted house movie fashion, the plot centres on a broken home. Disconnected teenager Elissa (Lawrence) and her recently-divorced mother, Sarah (Shue), move to a rural town in hope of a fresh start. Their new home, hidden by ominous trees, is next to a murder house, but the consequentially low rent convinces the duo to take it. As they settle in, they hear various rumours about what happened to the family that once lived next door. Apparently, the daughter of the family ran away after murdering her parents, leaving her distant brother, Ryan, as sole beneficiary. Ryan is a social recluse, tormented by his past and local bad-asses. Relationships are formed to thicken the plot, leaving the past and future of the neighbourhood in turmoil.
Tonderai uses an abundance of basic tools of the trade to make HATES teen-friendly. Every sequence is doused in horror hooks to keep the audience on edge: murky characters leap out from the shadows, implying unknown evils may lurk anywhere; screeches of strings inject fear; suspense is built high then left hanging for ages; when a vague sense of normality seems restored, mayhem returns for slasher-filled seconds. There are also occasional shots of hot, topless guys and close-ups of bikini-clad boobs, obvious attempts to please teens.
There are a fair few plot twists, uncertainties of trust and uncovered secrets, something that is commendable for a base-level thriller. However, the rickety camera work and shallow character profiles make it hard to fully engage with the film. Horror aficionados needn’t bother with HATES, but if you’re a newbie to the gore scene, this could be the gentle invitation you require.