Mathieu Turi makes a stunning feature film debut as a writer/director with Hostile, an English-language French production that offers engaging drama with its action-packed thrills. This film rises well above the creature feature norm because of its dramatic gravitas, outstanding performances, and solid direction.
Brittany Ashworth, who also appears in 2017 horror feature The Crucifixion (UK/Romania), top-lines here as Juliette, who viewers meet when she is on a deadly post-apocalypse scavenging mission for the group with which she lives. Roaming the desolate wasteland in a large vehicle as she searches for food and useful items, she encounters danger from fellow humans and monstrous creatures alike. When she is involved in an accident, her fellow group members abandon their search for her because of the dangers after nightfall, and she finds herself trapped in the overturned vehicle with a broken leg. Needless to say, those hungry creatures come looking for easy prey.
In between bouts of fighting for her survival, Juliette reflects back on her life before the apocalyptic event, to a time when she was was a junkie. Well-to-do art gallery owner Jack (Grégory Fitoussi of World War Z ) is instantly intrigued by her at one of his opening night shows, and the two strike up a challenging relationship.
Turi alternates straight-ahead present-day post-apocalyptic horror sequences with flashbacks told in a style that requires viewers to slowly put the dramatic puzzle pieces together. He blends these two tales together masterfully and takes Hostile to surprising places. Turi proves himself equally adept at building and delivering on suspense as he does providing poignant dramatic scenes. The film gives viewers the opportunity to truly care for its characters, and the more we learn about the tragedies through which Juliette has already gone, the more invested in her survival we become.
Hostile doesn’t hold back on the horror, offering plenty of vicious attacks, stunning gore effects, and creepy monsters. The creature effects are of the practical variety, with the renowned actor Javier Botet on board. These and other special effects look superb. Cinematographer Vincent Viellard-Baron, whose many credits include the enigmatic French arthouse horror offering Horsehead (2014), does an outstanding job, as well.
The main and supporting cast members all give fine turns. This is chiefly Ashworth’s film, though, and she gives a breakout performance as a tough survivor in two different realities. Here character Juliette goes through a wide range of emotions, from outrage to despair and most everything in between, and Ashworth impresses throughout.
Currently on its film festival run, Hostile is well worth waiting and watching for. It has been garnering nominations for best film and for its director, cast, and crew. One viewing is all it takes to understand why. The chances are high that it will wind up on several year-end “Best of 2017” lists, as well — mine included.
Hostile screened at FilmQuest Film Festival (Provo, Utah, September 8–16), where it received 12 FilmQuest Cthulhu nominations. Awards were not yet announced at press time.
By Joseph W. Perry (@JosephWPerryJWP)