Director: David Yarovesky
Writer: David Yarovesky, Will Honley
Producer: Ed Jones, Cary Granat, Jared Mass, Vincent Sieber
Stars: Gabriel Basso, Sean Gunn, Kathryn Prescott, Gabrielle Walsh, Jacob Zachar, Elya Baskin, Sonya Eddy, Steve Agee
Infected with a mutating virus, an amnesiac camp counselor struggles to piece together the mystery behind a deadly outbreak.
Adam Goldstein has an Eli Roth meets “Memento” type of problem. The teenage camp counselor woke up with amnesia in a barricaded cabin whose walls are caked with black blood. Adam looks worse than the room. Grotesque pustules clump all over his veiny skin like he caught something contagious from Baron Harkonnen. Chalk messages he wrote to himself provide initial clues to this maddening puzzle of how he ended up infected, as well as imprisoned with a dead body in a nearby closet.
Fleeting flashbacks soon show Adam all kinds of time-jumping recollections that couldn’t possibly come from his brain. Russian scientists performing illicit experiments in the 1980s. A neurosurgeon perplexed by the sudden genius of a girl who died on his operating table. Then there are blanks filled by visions of Adam’s goofball buddy Clark and a meet-cute with Katie, whose charm coaxed Adam out of his love ‘em and leave ‘em ways.
Somehow, all of these erratic images add up to Adam’s current condition. A doomsday clock ticks too. The unknown virus infecting Adam’s body may be giving him access to other people’s minds, but it’s also transforming him into the kind of mutated monster lurking outside the boarded-up doors. Adam had better jumpstart a jaunt down Memory Lane right quick if he wants to piece the complete Humpty Dumpty mystery back together again.
Infection. Possession. A cabin in the woods. Mutated people puking gunk from their guts to zombify others. From “Cabin Fever” (review here) to “Evil Dead” to take your pick of any undead outbreak movie, “The Hive” deals from a deck filled with fright flick familiarity. But it’s the peculiar order in which these cards hit the table, and the dexterous delivery, that reanimates each trope with surprising entertainment.
“The Hive” would probably bore any average horror film fan if its timeline played out chronologically. Nonlinearly, a frenetic injection of imaginative editing boosts the story through style.
Bursting with black lights, strobe lights, canted angles, skipped frames, and Stargate wormhole whips to bridge non-sequitur scenes, “The Hive” exhibits the ADD energy of a music video on methamphetamines. Caveat emptor if you have issues with epilepsy. If you’re not prone to seizures, this is an instance where the sensory overload comes across as fittingly tailored, as opposed to schizophrenically thrown together, and works exceedingly well to keep interested eyeballs engaged.
A bigger bump that might crack some axles relates to two behind-the-scenes names. Note that I watched “The Hive” in 2019 and came away with a heightened awareness of how oddly dated a 2015 film can feel in the post-#MeToo era.
Check out the movie’s IMDb page and you’ll see several pictures of “The Hive” director David Yarovesky with filmmaker James Gunn. James Gunn’s brother Sean acts in “The Hive” and James produced David Yarovesky’s follow-up feature “Brightburn,” which was co-written by Gunn brother Brian and cousin Matt. Clearly, Yarovesky has a connection with the Gunn family. More directly, “The Hive” hails from Nerdist Industries with Chris Hardwick onboard as an executive producer.
Now, I don’t have a dog in either debate regarding James Gunn’s Twitter past or accusations of certain behavior against Chris Hardwick. But being aware of those clouds over both men inadvertently puts some of “The Hive’s” deliberately juvenile comedy in an uncomfortable light.
Adam’s friend Clark is one of those curly-haired sidekicks whose shtick for audience endearment involves insults and insensitivity. Dialogue meant to induce laughs includes Clark jokingly asking Adam, “do you wanna jerk each other off real quick?” and cutting down the campers they are there to counsel by saying, “we’re gonna buttf*ck these kids!” Add in Adam’s repeated distraction of unintentionally tapping into the memory of a faceless, naked woman showering and yeah, “The Hive’s” humor hits a teeth-clenching note of tone deafness more loudly than it would have in its release year.
“The Hive” obviously isn’t at fault for things that went on with people in its orbit after the film came and went. Uncouple those unconnected controversies and the intent to be irreverent can be taken in better humor. Consider this only as another note of caution that beyond hyperactive camerawork and quick cuts, aspects of the writing won’t be to everyone’s liking.
The tastes that “The Hive” does suit are those in the market for retroactively revealing mysteries, a modicum of teen melodrama, and peaks of “28 Days Later” intensity. Actors are appealing, practical gore can be gruesome, and the novel presentation tips the scales in the film’s favor as a tasty martini of body horror with a satisfying sci-fi olive. It certainly helps that the generous kick of hot sauce in its visual flair fills out the flavor with big bites of brashness.
Review Score: 70