Whenever Xavier Gens’ name pops up in the opening credits of a film, I wonder what awful shit I’m about to be subjected to. Not that he’s a bad director, or the quality of his stuff is ever awful, it’s just that he has a habit of dispensing, or putting his name to, films which dispense a particularly sordid type of cruelty. Hostile, written and directed by Mathieu Turi, is every bit the kind of film you’d expect Gens to produce.
Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape ravaged by some unknown catastrophe Hostile follows one woman’s desperate attempt for survival. After a routine supply run leaves, her with a broken leg and a junked jeep, Juliet must survive isolated in a wasteland stalked by cannibals and mysterious creatures called Reapers which only come out at night.
Turi’s debut feature does best when it sticks to that simple premise. In style, tension, and tone the film is never more intriguing or entertaining when it answers the call of a one character one-location tension trip. It also never looks better. A tiny island of lurid red taillights and stark headlamps, surrounded by green glowsticks in the pitch blackness of a desert. It’s great to look at and the simple lighting does a lot of the film’s horror legwork for it before we’ve ever laid eyes on Javier Botet’s (Mama, Temple, The Other Side of the Door) terrifying Reaper.
Where Hostile goes wrong though is its constant, near laughably dour, flashbacks to a pre-apocalyptic setting. These are the parts of the film which betray Gens’ involvement. Each flashback peels back the layers of the feisty survivor; she’s an ex-addict who was essentially kidnapped by an arrogant art dealing arsehole after getting battered by her boss, from there there’s a love story (?) and eventually another cavalcade of misery. The film plays it as romance but fails miserably. From square one the relationship is a dud that manages to hit such romantic lows it undermines its whole purpose as build up to the film’s big finale twist and absolute downer of an ending.
If Hostile had remained on course as a tense one location horror it could have been so much more. Or at least left a better taste in the mouth. Instead, its continual flashbacks invade and undermine any tension whilst stunting the film all in the name of a twist. Which is a shame because there’s a decent film behind the distractions and a cool core concept.
Dir. Mathieu Turi
Stars. Brittany Ashworth, Gregory Fitoussi, Javier Botet