Film Review: 'Hex'
A technically beautiful and well-acted period drama stifled by a dull pace leading up to an unsatisfying conclusion.
The year is 1644, and the English Civil War has left England pitted in a vicious battle. After a skirmish in an isolated forest, two soldiers on opposite ends of the conflict are left standing: Richard (Daniel Oldroyd) and Thomas (William Young). Thomas is a religious young man uncomfortable at the violence surrounding him, while Richard is a hardened soldier who doesn't hesitate to try and kill Thomas when the men encounter each other and learn of their differences in allegiance.
But soon, both soldiers come to realize that there is a much greater threat to their lives at work than the war. Someone--or something--lurks in the forest; something that Thomas and Richard must band together to survive. But with the war and this malevolent force's trickery pushing both men to their limits, will either of them make it out of this forest alive?
Aesthetically, Hex proves to be an incredibly impressive film. Made on a reported (according to IMDB) 1,000 GBP (translated to around $1,282 in American currency), Hex boasts some excellent use of imagery and sound to create a tense atmosphere for its foreboding story. The forest that the film's events are isolated to is properly chilling, and the use of natural forest noise for much of the film makes for a much more unnerving feel than if a more traditional soundtrack were used instead. Being a slow-building horror flick more focused on atmosphere than wall-to-wall thrills, the team behind Hex seemed to realize the film's atmosphere needed to be strong and succeeded in making it so.
Unfortunately, as excellent as it is on a technical level, Hex flounders when it comes to pacing and plot. While the film may only clock in at 88 minutes, you are certain to feel every second tick by as Hex allows its action to go at the pace of a sedated sloth. In addition to the fact that much of the first act is dedicated to an extended fight sequence between our main leads (which features some questionable fight choreography) that leads into an extended hide-and-seek session before we get into the meat of the story, Hex gets off to a rough start and fails to improve as the story progresses.
Once Richard and Thomas finally realize that something evil lurks in the forest, you would expect this to be the point where the story hits its stride, allowing for a timely story of two men of differing political ideologies struggling to overcome their differences as a malicious force threatens to destroy them to commence. But instead, Hex is content to keep the action in a long stall, occasionally throwing some action in the midst of lengthy scenes of Richard and Thomas awkwardly trying to get along and escape the forest. This not only continues to make the film difficult to watch without falling asleep, but also makes the understanding that we're supposed to feel forming between the pair fall flat, as Richard and Thomas spend so much time apart or in silence that we never see them truly connect all that much.
Had this all been the film's way of building up to some shocking climax between the soldiers and the source of the forest's terrors, Hex may have been somewhat redeemed for its sluggish pacing. Instead, unfortunately, in addition to the aforementioned terrors only getting a few moments of exposure, the film's conclusion will leave you confused at best and enraged at worst. SPOILER ALERT After finally confronting the witch responsible for their torment, the three get into a solidly tense confrontation regarding her actions and the violence that the war has brought to their country, allowing for a nice parallel to a similar confrontation had between Richard and Thomas earlier. But instead of this topical and well-acted (particularly in regards to Suzie Frances Garton's portrayal of the wrathful witch) confrontation ending on a satisfying conclusion, we simply get the witch being stabbed repeatedly by Thomas before cutting to black as Richard prepares to behead her. Spoilers Over While a bleak ending such as this is appropriate given the film's tone, Hex ends on such an abrupt note that is sure to infuriate viewers expecting to be rewarded for the film's slow build with something a great deal more impactful.
There's a lot of good to be found within Hex; in addition to the impressive visuals, Daniel Oldroyd and William Young give good performances and are at their best when the plot (which at times becomes a thought-provoking meditation on the pointless brutality of war) allows them to dig deeper into their characters' psyches. But on the whole, the excessively dragging pace and disappointing conclusion deprive this compelling premise of any spark, and give it the feel of a strong short film someone haphazardly tried to extend to feature length. For all the excellent cinematography and bursts of intriguing plot, Hex is ultimately crushed under the weight of its own padding.
Score: 3 out of 10 desecrated churches.