Originally screened in 2008, Hurt is a psychological thriller that takes inspiration from movies such as The Bad Seed, The Good Son, and The Orphan. Although similar to these movies, Hurt stands on its own, eschewing the supernatural and instead focusing on family dynamics that consequently lead to murder, suicide, and revenge. Although bloodless, this movie works well because of the emotional and psychological scars it presents. However, the movie is flawed, with the screenplay needing more polish and the actors needing some better dialogue at times.
The story begins with a two-car accident, as seen by a wandering wolf. The story quickly shifts to the Coltrane clan, which consists of mom Helen (Melora Walters) and her son Conrad (Jackson Rathbone) and daughter Lenor (Johanna Braddy). The family is moving out of a middle-class home in the suburbs, as the family patriarch was recently killed in a car accident (perhaps the one shown during the film’s opening?). The family moves in with Uncle Darryl (William Mapother), who lives in a small shack in an automobile junkyard. As if the family isn’t discombobulated enough, an attorney makes contact with Helen. It turns out that her husband wanted Helen to adopt a girl by the name of Sarah Parsons (Sofia Vassilieva), whom he had met while working as a contractor. Helen agrees to temporarily take care of Sarah, who supposedly was abused by her mother. Sarah’s father was also killed in a car accident (the first link, hint-hint).
The bulk of the movie is framed as a slice-of-life, with all the characters struggling with their personal demons. Uncle Darryl is particularly creepy, as he shows an unhealthy affection for his widowed sister-in-law. Slowly but surely, strange things begin to happen around the house. Things get started when Lenor’s pet duckling is killed, its neck twisted. At first the family suspects other family members, key among them poor Uncle Darryl, but soon Lenor begins to put the pieces together. When her personal copy of the book White Fang is torn up, Lenore discovers that Sarah covets her own copy of the book. Lenor finds the old address for Sarah and sets off on a daylong investigation, which reveals some truly psychologically messed up tidbits about patriarch Coltrane and his odd life.
In the meantime, Sarah has busied herself further by killing off Conrad’s girlfriend. She then proceeds to stir things up between Helen and Uncle Darryl. Just as things begin to fall apart, Lenor arrives on the scene, turning the tables on Sarah. But it may be too late, as Sarah holds the upper hand.
Hurt is a pretty good psychological thriller, one that shows how one family member’s indiscretion can destroy not one but two families. Director Barbara Stepansky does a good job with the movie, enabling the audience to feel a gamut of emotions throughout. The cast is solid, with the leads believable and the supporting cast working well. However, the screenplay is a bit off, particularly during the film’s final reel. The bulk of the movie comes off as a slow-moving drama. The final reel should turn up the tension, but instead takes its time simmering. A subplot involving mom’s diabetes is a bit contrived and unbelievable, particularly for those who live with the disease every day.
Despite the lack of execution with respect to suspense and tension, Hurt works well as a psychological thriller. Viewers will find the family dynamics of this movie to be unnervingly disturbing. Once the movie is done, its title will take on its full meaning. Hurt does indeed hurt, and although some may forget the flick in time, all will remember the psychological ramifications displayed herein. Had the movie created a keener sense of menace, it would make for a truly disturbing and satisfying experience.