James Cullen Bressack’s thriller, Hate Crime, is definitely not for the faint of heart, or those seeking mainstream (or even indie-style) entertainment in a movie. In fact the only viewers that I’d see most interested in Bressack’s feature are people employed in the legal and forensic-medical fields, who view FBI surveillance footage on a regular basis, and are immune to its tediousness and psychological-gore.
As you may surmise by the film’s title, Hate Crime concerns yet another flick about Neo-Nazi sadism against Jews. Making use of the technique du jour, “found footage,” much like Dom Rotheroe’s Exhibit A (2007) and Pavel Bardin’s previously banned Russia 88 (2009), Bressack’s instigating-voyeur (dare I say, perpetrator), is the father of three, in a typically suburban five-member-family setting.
Hate Crime concerns a family that recently moved from New Jersey to a small town in another state. The film opens upon three children (a little boy named Alex (Sloane Morgan Siegel), his middle brother Tyler (Nicholas Clark), and his older sister Lindsay (Debbie Diesel)) sitting at their dining room table. Alex wears a paper party hat, because it’s his birthday. Their father Dan (Greg Depetro) films the children, all seriously miffed at his intrusion on their privacy. In fact, Alex point blank tells Dan to put the video camera away, because it’s annoying him.
At that point, the mother, Melissa (Maggie Wagner), calls Dan to the kitchen because someone’s left the door open, and she’s walked into it- spilling something in the process. Dan films his aggravated wife, even though she asks him to put the camera down and help her. She then proceeds to berate him about his absenteeism and general forgetfulness about everything. including their anniversary. Apologetically, Dan promises to do better, and together he and Melissa bring the birthday cake to Alex. It is at this very moment that the house is invaded by three Neo-Nazi terrorists, and all hell breaks loose.
So what’s this film about and why is Bressack making another emotionally draining film about Neo-Nazism? As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting part of the movie concerns Dan and his obsession with videotaping his family, even when they beg him to stop. Is Dan really a doting family man, or a sadistic overlord? Sadly, we are all too well acquainted with terrorism; the tyranny and tortures of Adolf Hitler, and the derived Neo-Nazism that persists to some extent today in Russia, the United States and elsewhere. What positives are to be gained politically, educationally, or otherwise by witnessing 72 minutes of agonizing abuse at the movies— when we only have only to read the newspapers or watch any variety of authentic, surveilled-tortures on television news? And though I happen to be a huge fan of Producer Mark Gordon’s Criminal Minds, even the most horrifying of those tales are buffered by commercials and interesting side stories of love, friendships and humor.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Bressack should be commended for his bravery in filmmaking, interesting cinematography, and most of all, for finding willing actors (all excellent) to play out endless actions of mental and physical cruelty— but to what end?
As I said before, Hate Crime is only for a targeted few, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep a careful watch on its filmmaker. I’m very curious to learn more about James Cullen Bressack’s next cinematic project.
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