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In Hostile, a worldwide epidemic has killed most of the planet’s population. The few survivors struggle to find food and shelter. But they are not alone.

On her way back from a scavenging mission, Juliette (Brittany Ashworth) has a terrible accident. Stuck in her car, with a broken leg, in the middle of an unforgiving desert, she must survive the perils of the post-apocalypse while a strange creature prowls around.

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On paper, it sounds like a fairly typical post-apocalyptic action-horror blend. But writer/director Mathieu Turi enriches the parched wasteland with a sincere backstory that explores the role of fate in the film. It builds a slow burn that reaches a rough yet beautifully emotional climax.

The story is told in two interjecting parts (with stunning cinematography by Vincent Veillard-Baron). The sun-scorched present follows Juliette (Brittany Ashworth, The Crucifixion) as she travels alone through the desolate expanse.

Flashes of the past explore Juliette’s personal journey in rich, vivid color tones that thematically compliment the development of her relationship with gallery owner Jack (Grégory Fitoussi, G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra). 

photo by Vincent Vieillard-Baron

I must admit it took me a few turns to get used to the sudden change of scenery, but once I realized that the “flashbacks” were alternating chapters in the story, it immediately made sense. Structurally, it’s kind of like a post-apocalyptic Gone Girl if the characters actually liked each other. It’s a literary trait you don’t often see in film, but Turi skillfully weaves the story together.

Juliette’s present chapters put Ashworth in the spotlight and she rises to the challenge. When we first meet her, we immediately see that she’s confident, competent, and completely independent.

photo by Mika Cotellon

Her first on-screen encounter with one of the Reapers visually reveals absolutely nothing  (the camera rotates around the RV that serves as their fighting ring), but this simple action communicates a lot to the audience. Sometimes action is best left up to imagination. With the RV’s movements and the sounds we hear from inside, we learn that killing the Reapers is not easy, and we retain the image of Juliette as a deeply human character.

We can hear her struggle as she attacks, and we hear the Reaper as a fierce opponent. But we don’t see a stylized, overly choreographed fight. Juliette is not an archetypal super-soldier heroine, she’s just adjusted to the “new normal”.

The Reapers featured in the film are played by the wonderful Javier Botet, whose work you have definitely seen before (though you might not know it). His job is to be completely unrecognizable and regularly terrifying, and he’s very good at it. You know him as The Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2, the Hobo in Andy Muschietti’s IT, Mama in Mama, Niña Medeiros in [REC], and KeyFace in Insidious: The Last Key.

Botet brings an otherworldly quality to the Reapers that’s both fascinating and unnerving. You can’t look away.

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Hostile is a combination of a love story and horror, not one over the other. Of course, there are a large number of horror films that include elements of a budding romance. But it’s how Hostile balances the two elements that makes it stand out.

Like Juliette’s relationship with Jack, there’s a delicate dance between the two. A push and pull. Admittedly, they do step on their partner’s toes from time to time with a clunky misstep. But ultimately (and to continue the dance analogy), it feels completely different from the choreography we’re used to in the horror genre.

Hostile Arrives On VOD And Digital HD On Leading Digital Platforms And On DVD On September 4, 2018

via Full Time Films