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Thursday, July 1, 2010

HUNGER -- movie review by porfle

[Note: Fangoria magazine has teamed up with Lightning Media and Blockbuster for a series of eight horror/thrillers which will be available exclusively on DVD, VOD, and digital download Sept. 28 under the "Fangoria FrightFest" banner. This film is part of that series.]


With a name like HUNGER (2009), I was expecting yet another vampire or zombie flick.  Fortunately, this is something else entirely--it's one of those "predicament" stories where the characters are placed in a seemingly inescapable situation which slowly degenerates as their desperation grows, along with their hunger.

Five people awaken to find that they've been kidnapped and imprisoned in a dark underground pit.  When the lights come on, they're surrounded by stone walls with the only exit being at the top of an overhead shaft.  Four barrels contain plenty of drinking water, but there's no food.  A clock mounted on the wall is designed to tick off the next thirty days one by one, which, according the attractive blonde surgeon Jordan (Lori Heuring), is roughly the amount of time a person can manage to survive without eating.  It doesn't take long for them to figure out that they are little more than human lab rats in a ghastly experiment. 

With this interesting premise established, L.D. Goffigan's script takes us through the early stages in which personalities are revealed, alliances are formed, plans are made, and escapes are attempted.  Grant (Linden Ashby) is the level-headed older guy who takes charge and immediately sets to work trying to scrape some bricks loose from the wall.  Anna (Lea Kohl) is the mousey girl who's a hair's breadth away from freaking out, and Alex (Julian Rojas) is the insecure loner who isn't far behind.  The one we start to worry about the most right off the bat, though, is Luke (Joe Egender), an antisocial hothead with violent tendencies and a ruthless will to survive.  But we know that any one of them is capable of killing since, as we discover, each of them has killed before for various reasons.


Like a slow fuse, the story takes its time setting up what's to come and letting the situation gradually worsen.  Tension mounts as we wait for someone to snap, which is heightened when one of the subjects discovers a big, sharp scalpel (just right for slicing human flesh) which has been placed in their prison.  Sure enough, hunger trumps humanity and the five captives begin to turn on each other with horrifying results, while those who refuse to surrender to savagery become entrees on the grisly bill of fare--all of which is dispassionately observed by their captor whose motives are revealed through tragic flashbacks. 

Director Steven Hentges displays a talent for keeping all of this claustrophobic interplay consistently suspenseful and involving, allowing the story to unfold in a deliberate and believable manner until it's time for the inevitable bloody horror to begin.  With only one interior location for most of the film and a limited cast, he turns what was probably a pretty small budget into a stylish film that looks good.  Performances are fine, particularly from a low-key, intense Lori Heuring as Jordan and a frighteningly manic Joe Egender, who reminds me of Giovanni Ribisi, as the unstable Luke.  Linden Ashby is ideal as Grant, the authority figure whom we hope can keep things under control, while Lea Kohl as Anna and Julian Rojas as Alex emerge as unpredictable wild cards later on.


I watched a barebones screener so I can't comment on DVD specs.  According to Fangoria.com, extras will include "director’s commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, 8 FANGORIA FRIGHTS cable special and the eight FrightFest trailers."

HUNGER is a tense, engrossing survival thriller that's all the more disturbing since these aren't zombies lurching around ravenous for human flesh, but regular people who have been driven to madness.  Who will survive, and what will be left of their humanity?  A final battle of wits between the last test subject(s) and "The Scientist" leads to a stirring conclusion which left me fully satisfied.  (BURP!)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review. Liked this movie.