It’s not often you come across a romance/post-apocalyptic/survival horror genre bender, and a good one at that. Hostile, by director and writerMathieu Turi is such a film. I loved it with the same enthusiasm I love fantasy films, because though this film is nowhere near being a fantasy, it challenges viewers to be open to the possibility of the extraordinary.
The story centers on Juliette, played by Brittany Ashworth, a determined woman who has lived through some tough times, to say the very least. When we meet her, she is rummaging for supplies in a dry wasteland, which is presumably the remaining environment after an unexplained apocalyptic event. She is driving a van that has seen better days. She uses a two-way battery powered radio to contact her home base, otherwise, Juliette is alone for miles. We learn that in this barren world, there are monsters that are very hard to kill and that people are few and far in between. After an incident with an injured survivor, Juliette radios home and is urged to hurry back before sundown. Off she goes, racing against the sunset with goods to bring back to her people. Her van is overturned. The story then takes on a survival horror element, as Juliette is injured and must survive until help arrives. Isolated, terrified, and in pain, she must use her limited resources to fend off whatever dangers lurk in the dark. As the hours tick by, Juliette begins to revisit memories of the love of her life, Jack, played by Grégory Fitoussi, before the great calamity.
The flashback scenes enable the film to have excellent character development, a rarity for survival horror. At first, I found myself annoyed that I wasn’t going to just see a movie about a woman’s harrowing struggle to survive in the van. But as the story unfolds, and the audience gets to know Juliette in a very intimate way, the horror scenes become more intense due to your investment in her character. The scares are great and I found myself crawling out of my seat a few times. I’d like to see Turi do more horror because he knows how to get a visceral response from the audience.
The performances in the film are good but I will say that the writing is a little spotty at times. It felt a bit sophomoric in certain flashback scenes and in some scenes, hokey. It does take some of the sophistication out of the film, while not tarnishing the overall experience. You get the idea that the filmmakers are trying to make. I just wish the dialogue sounded more natural.
Visually, the film is well shot and effective. I loved the van scenes the most, and the use of lighting and blocking was well done. All the technical aspects of the film are well executed although the heart of the movie lies in the survival scenes and in your growing relationship with Juliette.
When the film was introduced at Other Worlds, Debbie Cerda mentioned that it might be a polarizing movie. I agree that this film isn’t for everybody. It’s for people who love to believe in the potential of love and destiny. If you need a stark and brutally realistic view of survival stories, you might not like the turn this movie takes. If you are an endless romantic or are just open to the fact that some stories are about the fantastic possibilities of life and love, you’ll adore this film. I spoke with a few other critics at the festival and found that close to half loved Hostile, and the others found that it overplayed its hand. I disagree with this point of view. Hard realism is all well and good, but movies must have to power to make us reach beyond what we expect. This movie explores this vein.
Romantic and terrifying, Hostile is an emotional roller coaster of a film. It’s perfect for cuddling up with a loved one and a cold winter day. I really liked it and I plan to recommend it to the folks in my life who I know will appreciate it. If you like scary movies, you’ll love half this film. If you like love stories, you’ll love the other half of this movie. If you cherish a good story overall, then you’ll love the whole thing.
Thanks for reading!
The Diva Del Mar