More Like Only Mild Discomfort

Main Cast: Melora Walters and William Mapother

Director: Barabara Stepansky

Bad Seed with a twist?

2009’s Hurt is nothing special. It’s decent enough, I suppose. The plot feels like an attempt at an original take on a very old idea, but there are so many holes in the thing, you’re likely to fall through and impale yourself on a conveniently-placed length of pipe. You’ll understand that one if you see the movie.

Helen Coltrane (Melora Walters, The Butterfly Effect) and her kids, Conrad (Jackson Rathbone, Twilight) and Lenore (Johanna Braddy, The Grudge 3), have to move in with Helen’s brother-in-law Darryl (William Mapother, “Lost”) for a while after the death of Helen’s husband in a car accident. Helen was 14 when she came to the Coltrane house as a foster child, then eventually married Robert and began her life.

Things are difficult back on the Coltrane “ranch” (ranch, in this case, is a euphemism for “junk yard in the middle of the desert”), as Darryl has lived here his entire life and is pretty set in his ways. But he’s had it bad for Helen since forever, so they make the best of it. And apparently the “it”, in this case, includes Sarah (Sofia Vassilieva, “Medium”), a foster child Robert was in the middle of filing for guardianship of before he died. Sarah’s mother is also dead, the lawyer explains, and she has nowhere else to go. So Helen agrees to take the girl in for a while. Meanwhile, she’s just waiting for “the settlement” so she and the kids have some money to start over with.

That’s when things start going south. Lenore finds her pet duck with its neck broken and the cage wide open. Uncle Darryl hated that duck, but insists he had nothing to do with it. Conrad’s girlfriend’s car breaks down on her way home from the “ranch” after getting caught in the back seat of Darryl’s prize classic car with Conrad in the garage, a cigarette left burning on the roof of the car. When she gets out to walk back and use the phone–cell coverage, naturally, is for shit out here in the middle of nowhere–she, well, like I said, you’ll understand that one if you see the movie.

Suffice it to say, the intention here is to try and cast doubt and possibly make it look like Darryl is the culprit, when it’s way too obvious from the very beginning that Sarah is not to be trusted. I mean, anyone who’s ever seen any movie about anything ever will know Sarah’s the villain here. Sure, Darryl wanders into Helen’s room sometimes late at night and watches her sleep. It’s creepy, obviously, but he’s in love with her, so we at least understand his motivation.

Sarah is the wild card. And the only reason I kept watching this movie was for that late stage reveal to see just what was her deal. By the time it appeared, it felt like an original twist, but it still wasn’t enough to make the rest of this movie worth the effort.

Penned by TV writer Alison Lea Bingeman (“CSI: Miami”, “F/X the Series”), Hurt feels like a made for TV movie with all the subtlety of a mid-90s Lifetime Original. And the pace set by director Barbara Stepansky (Final Recourse) is no better. I know it’s the desert and that it probably doesn’t change much, but every single day shot looks like the previous day’s day shot, which then confuses the timeline because the script sure as hell doesn’t let us know when it’s the next day, the same day, later that week, or anything else.

The characters are about as bland as bland gets. Conrad is apparently an artist who specializes in welding scrap together. Is he successful at this? Don’t know. How long has he been at it? No idea. As far as the movie is concerned, he might as well have gotten into the medium after moving onto a junk farm and wanted something to pass the time. Rathbone offers a spark here and there to make Conrad seem like he might almost be a real boy, but in the end, he’s mostly ineffectual.

The only person here who seems at any point to have a spark of life in her is Lenore, yet I also feel like every bit of personality she expressed was merely a plot device. She had to feel or think a certain thing so one scene could lead into the next. It certainly wasn’t because she was a well-developed character brought to life in a well-made movie.

As for Melora Walters, I’m used to her playing the quiet, mousy character, but in this instance it just doesn’t work. Helen Coltrane is the ultimate victim, stuck in a situation she can’t get out of, forced there by a husband who not only didn’t leave anything for them when he died, but also saddled them with one more mouth to feed. She’s got two kids who are trying really hard not to resent her, a brother-in-law who obviously doesn’t want them there, and a new foster kid whom Helen knows almost nothing about. Life isn’t being too kind to Helen lately. And what does she do about it?

Not a whole hell of a lot. It’s hard to feel sympathy for a character when their every move does nothing but reinforce that victim mentality.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into Hurt expecting brilliance or anything. In fact, I had a suspicion it wouldn’t be very good at all, and I almost didn’t watch it. But what the hell, I like Walters usually, and I really liked Mapother in “Lost”, so I gave it a shot. While I can’t say that was a big mistake–that little twist there that kicks off act 3 WAS a pretty good twist–I also can’t say as I’d recommend it to anyone else. There’s just nothing special about it. Yeah, I liked the twist, but the rest of the movie is just standard stuff and you see it all coming a mile away. Hurt was mediocre at best. If you’re in desperate need of seeing a Bad Seed clone, just watch the 1956 original instead.

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