Overview: A summer camp counselor must determine what is real and what is not after he wakes up with amnesia and a mysterious infection covering his body. Nerdist Industries; 2015; Rated R; 93 Minutes.
Talking in Circles: The Hive positions itself as a puzzle, one that both the lead character Adam and the audience are tasked with figuring out. We’ll maintain that set-up, despite the fact that it doesn’t fully work in the film’s favor. For the first half-hour, Adam’s detective work, consisting of numerous flashbacks and clichéd scribblings on the cabin wall, is engaging. There are few classic cinema setups better than a lead character forced to discover who they are, or one swept into a race against time to save the love of their life, and this film features both. But Adam, in his present day storyline, is trapped inside a cabin, forced to talk to himself and deliver heaping loads of reductive narrative exposition, and therein lies the central problem. The film’s mystery isn’t as complex as director David Yarovesky and co-writer Will Honley would like us to believe, and the unnecessary exposition makes it even easier to figure out. Before the film is even halfway over, our knowledge about what’s going on has far surpassed Adam’s, leaving us to frustratingly watch a character repeat information as if he’s talking to the children at his summer camp. The film treads water when all it has to do is stand up.
Smells Like Teen Spirit: Despite the fact that the film’s mysterious virus and outbreak is needlessly over-explained, it remains an imaginative concept, and one deserving of complex characters to walk its headspace. But instead of adult characters with measured flaws, we’re left with annoyingly juvenile teens with exacerbated emotional hang-ups. While the performances are solid for what they are, the film revels in the douchebaggery of its two male characters, and the two women are easily categorized as the slutty cheater and the pixie dream girl. While the film’s intent to turn the lonely and crass womanizer Adam into a selfless and decent human being is a respectable arc, Yarovesky attempts to do this within the span of a few days. Adam must go from immature asshole to Nicholas Sparks-esque romantic lead, willing to sacrifice everything for a girl he’s known for about three days. And of course, it’s this “true love” that unlocks the mystery to everything.
Memento Mori: The plot and characters aren’t quite up to snuff, but Yarovesky’s direction absolutely makes the film worth watching. Despite the clear inspiration taken from Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead in terms of the effects and framing for the infected, Yarovesky creates his own color-splashed palate, creating a horror film that looks equal parts scummy and beautiful. The blacklight-lit scenes that characterize most of the present day narrative give every splash of blood and black vomit an otherworldly glow. Even in the scenes that don’t benefit from that lighting technique, Yarovesky and cinematographer Michael Dallatorre display an expert eye for framing and lighting. The film’s aesthetic isn’t just memorable for a low-budget indie horror film, but memorable for film in general and one that I’m sure will be imitated in the years to come.
Overall: The script could have gone through another couple of drafts to iron out its pacing and characterization issues, but Yarovesky’s direction is worth getting excited about. The film’s heart is too situated in the right place for it to ever truly be an example of style over substance, and the thematics and emotions never come to full fruition, so we’re left to clutch at the visuals while lamenting what the film could have been.