A concept more interesting then the film is allowed to be.
The Hive is a solid blend of horror norms wrapped around a central theme of loss of identity. Set in a slasher film's summer camp cliché, what the producers of The Hive want you to believe is that you're here to see a zombie film. In reality, this is an interesting take on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers trope, told with a Memento-style narrative of interwoven flashbacks as our protagonists (and "others") memories return. The events leading to the amnesia are an important plot point, and the flashbacks become multi- faceted as the story fleshes out.
The Hive is advertised as shot in "Vine-Style" with no single shot lasting more than ten seconds. The conscious decision to edit the film this way seems inconsequential for the majority of the film, but when combined with the flashbacks, we do slip into short periods of incoherency. More distressing is early on, as Adam (Gabriel Basso) is being introduced. Alone and without memories, the director uses a series of rapid jump cuts to convey his leads anger and frustration, which is simply distracting to the viewer. The editing choices also mean we never linger on a particular image, which is a shame because certain moments have great framing and make perfect use of the high contrast.
Due to the direction, Basso does not convey a strong lead in the weak first act of the film, but he is type-cast well. David Yarovesky recovers from these initial stumbles, showing his strongest instincts lie in the teen romance scenes. Adams chemistry with Katie (Kathryn Prescott) starts to turn things around, and as the film progresses he becomes a more believable character. Jacob Zachar is not given a well conceived character arc, but none the less has an excellent turn as Clark. Prescott remains a charming presence throughout, even in the more tense moments. The secondary cast all put in solid horror movie performances, with only Gabrielle Walsh treading hammy.
The production values, while misguided and heavy handed at times, are strong. The film is heavily filtered, so natural lighting is never neutral and the the majority of the interior cabin shots make full use of exploiting blacklights to give a distinct look to the films present time frame. The general aesthetics will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent any time with the famed Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies video game. You might question the speed in which the main cabin deteriorates, as well as the extremes in which the children's cabin has been effected later in the movie. These set choices are seemingly to promote atmosphere but mostly miss.
What does promote the atmosphere is the music, easily the strongest aspect of The Hive and yet still not without flaw. The rather well shot scene of Adam and Katie in the clinic is adversely affected by the soundtrack, but the moments of tension and horror are perfectly scored. The use of Steve Aoki's tracks are fitting and complimenting.
After a summer season that included Unfriended, The Gallows and The Poltergeist remake, as well as sharing theater retail space with The Visit, The Hive is certainly an above-board film to the horror fetishist. It hangs hope on its high concept of loss of identity to stick with you after the credits roll, while limiting the jump scares and turning up the gross out factor with vomiting. The story is intriguing, and the flashbacks of the scientists involved in creating this situation particularly strong. It has weak direction and contrived narrative devices in play, but it is well worth the watch and certainly more deserving of wide release.
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