The Hive Review: Memento Meets Summer Camp Horror

Would life just be easier if all of humanity was converted into an army of mindless meat puppets, periodically controlled by a sentient, unseen hivemind?

Yeah, probably not so much.

The Hive, not quite a zombie movie (but closer to that than any other kind of existing horror-type), has an incredibly interesting premise. Unfortunately, the film doesn't quite live up to the promise of its synopsis.

The Hive Film Poster

The backstory of how this film wound up being distributed is itself interesting and unique. Originally screened at Fantastic Fest (an annual genre film festival in Austin specializing in horror, sc-fi and the like), The Hive (written and directed by newbie filmmaker David Yarovesky) was spotted by Nerdist's chief-nerd-in-charge Chris Hardwick. Hardwick was intrigued (rightly so!) and decided that The Hive would be his company's first foray into movie distribution – and the film is certainly worthy of that kind of high praise and attention.

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The Hive focuses on its protagonist, Adam (Gabriel Basso, of Super 8), a counselor to hordes of rich little kids at Camp Yellow Jacket. Adam awakens in a cabin with no memory of who he is, how he got there – or why he has the doors and windows blocked off and why chaotic phrases and drawings are scribbled on the walls. As Adam starts to recall memories of the preceding several days, he begins to piece together his own life and what happened to his fellow counselors, best friend Clark (Jacob Zachar, of Greek), love interest Katie (Kathryn Prescott, of Finding Carter), and Clark's girlfriend Jess (Gabrielle Walsh).

The movie is clearly influenced by the Christopher Nolan film, Memento, in that Adam (and the audience) experience the full story in a non-linear fashion. This plot device works well within the "rules" of The Hive's universe.

Gabriel Basso was very good as our hero Adam. The role called for a decent amount of panic and emotional turmoil, and Basso's understated performance worked in his favor. Basso didn't seem like he was even acting at most points in the film – he just came across as a real teenager, with real teenage reactions, experiencing an unimaginable horror.

The supporting cast (particularly the three other teens played by Prescott, Zachar and Walsh) was also excellent. Zachar's Clark had impeccable comedic timing that often lightened the mood for the better, and Prescott brought life to an atypical, interesting horror movie love interest. The romance between Adam and Katie, which grounded the film and gave it shape, was lovely.

Walsh, for the brevity of her role, was the stand-out of the supporting cast, in my opinion. Her "possessed" performance, our first close-up view of the "villain" of the film, was flawless. Walsh's Jess was genuinely unnerving every time she was on screen.

The special effects, gore and make-up were similarly unnerving. This was a low-budget film, so the effectiveness of the visual horrors in The Hive is doubly impressive. With relatively little funding, Yarovesky managed to terrify me more than once in the film's running time.

So, you may be asking yourself, "But Caralynn, with such high praise, where is the bad?"

Well, here it is: "The bad" starts in the latter third of the film, once Adam pieces everything together and comes up with weirdly accurate "rules" for how the titular Hive (and the virus-ridden black vomit-goo by which it spreads itself) operates.

This last part of the film relies heavily on overly-expository dialogue. Exposition, a huge factor in horror movies, is usually fairly innocuous in moderation. However, Adam spends a huge portion of the film on his own, so his "talking to himself" is pretty much breaking the fourth wall and hand-holding the audience through what's going on.

The earlier part of the movie is excellent; I loved the suspenseful vibe as we attempt to figure out what precisely is going on and what the nature and origin of the hive-virus is. At some distinct point, though, Adam makes some pretty unbelievable (and not in a good way) cognitive leaps to figure out what's happening and how to counteract it.

The Hivemind was an original, creative, intriguing idea for a horror movie villain. I appreciated that the nature of the Hivemind itself was never fully articulated – but in the end, the movie (while very enjoyable) does not hold up to its great underlying idea.

The good news is: if this is the type of creativity that Yarovesky is capable of at the outset of his career, and this is what he can do with a low budget, I am extremely excited to see him develop as an established director in the horror genre.

September 18, 2015