"Keeps my imagination going."
Michael Kallio wrote, directed, and starred in Hatred of a Minute, inspired in part by the success of the fellow Detroit filmmakers behind The Evil Dead and even enlisting the assistance of Bruce Campbell in its production. It took eight years for Hatred of a Minute to claw its way from the first day of filming to the end of post-production, and Anchor Bay has brought the movie to DVD with an impressive array of supplemental material in tow.
Kallio stars as Eric Seaver, a young man tormented by the violence of his troubled childhood. Eric could do little more than watch as his stepfather, a relentlessly abusive drunk, tore into his loving mother, often moments before Eric himself would have to endure his wrath. He seems to have waded his way through the pain, working tirelessly as an autopsy transcriber and engaged to the beautiful Jamie (Tracee Newberry). Despite such recent positive turns, his mother's death years later sends Eric's past bubbling to the surface. The claims that his stepfather Barry (Gunnar Hansen; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) had turned over a new leaf to become a devoted husband fell on deaf ears. Prodded on by a hallucinatory Demon, Eric violently exacts his revenge with a conveniently located household appliance. Despite the pleas from an equally non-corporeal angel, Eric's reign of terror continues unabated, determined to ease the suffering of women by killing them off one by one.
The acting is the most glaring weak link in the film, at times approaching smalltown dinner theater, from the effeminate angel Michael (Jeffery Steiger) to its star. Kallio's performance is tolerable with hammy tendencies, most unforgettably when he bellows, "...bury you ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!!!!!!!!" after an early kill. Kallio wore a number of hats throughout the course of production, and although it's understandable that he'd want to cast himself in the lead role, some major recasting of his character and a handful of others would've made for a much stronger film. Kallio fares much better behind the camera, and Sam Raimi's influence on his style is unmistakable. The off-beat positioning of the camera, the slightly-tilted Dutch angles throughout, and some Ram-O-Cam-ish shots all point to Kallio having seen his share of Evil Dead flicks. Hatred of a Minute has a rather stylized look to it, most notably the varying color saturation as Eric's mind warps in the moments preceding a murder.
Hatred of a Minute isn't a gory movie, but some of its more violent moments are effectively brutal. A number of these sequences, particularly early on, left me flinching with each attack. There aren't barrel drums of the red stuff or graphic evisceration, but what's present is largely effective. The grue tapers down as the movie progresses, with an increasing amount of the violence taking place off-screen or in some way obscured. It's balanced well, though -- there's enough blood that Hatred of a Moment doesn't seem like it's copping out, but it pulls back enough so as not to come across as cheesy or cartoonishly over-the-top.
Hatred of a Minute is a debut with quite a bit of promise, and I'm impressed with the ambition, drive, and agony that must've gone into taking an idea like this from concept to completion over the course of so many years. Still, the film's shortcomings make it difficult to recommend plunking down twenty bucks on a purchase sight-unseen. I liked Hatred of a Moment enough that I felt somewhat drawn into it; I didn't stare longingly at a nearby clock, agonizing over each second that passed, but at the same time, I didn't find it a strong enough movie to recommend that readers fork over their credit cards sight-unseen. Those intrigued with the concept or Bruce Campbell's producer credit should absolutely give this well-produced DVD a rental, but the movie alone doesn't inspire a particularly enthusiastic recommendation from me.
Video: Hatred of a Minute is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The transfer is solid, especially considering that the film was shot on 16mm eight years ago for a couple hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps because of the usual constraints of working with such a low budget, the look is mildly inconsistent throughout. Some scattered shots appear somewhat soft, and the weight of the expected 16mm film grain is variable as well. There aren't really any flaws or concerns worth noting, though -- speckling is unintrusive, and the source material doesn't exhibit much in the way of wear and tear. The image is generally respectably sharp, and colors appear spot-on. Hatred of a Minute has a number of visual flourishes, particularly in the numerous flashbacks and hallucinations that plague Eric. Color saturation plays a significant role in the way these sequences look, ranging from dull and washed out in the past to super-saturated as his victims cry out for their release, and these moments translate flawlessly to DVD. Because of its low-budget origins, there's a limit to how great Hatred of a Minute can look, but Anchor Bay has provided about as excellent a presentation as can be hoped for, all things considered.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (192Kbps) comes through rather nicely. Dialogue remains clear and discernable throughout, to such an extent that some of the looped lines really stand out. The low-end is at times substantial, particularly during the techno-orchestral score that plays over the title credits and a door Eric slams late in the film. The remainder of the score has a decent presence, if leaning perilously towards being overwrought. It's definitely not the sort of bland mix I would expect from a low-budget indie.
Though there are no dubs or subtitles, closed captions have been provided.
Supplements: The first of the mountain of extras is the seventeen-minute "Hating Every Minute: A Day in the Life of an Independent Film", a collection of shot-on-video footage taped on the set in 1995. The featurette captures footage of both rehearsals and actual shooting, the cast and crew killing time and goofing around between setups, and scattered chatter, including some comments from a mostly-off-camera Bruce Campbell. The footage really gives an indication what the vibe must've been like on the set of Hatred of a Minute, and it's interesting to see how the cast and crew acts between takes of some particularly intense scenes. The footage is lightly captioned, with snarky comments like "The Pensive Actor" and "Cue the Fake Tears" popping onto the frame intermittently. The very well-done featurette is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with the vintage video footage pillarboxed in a 1.78:1 frame. Viewers with 4x3 sets won't see those bars on the sides, as is the norm with Anchor Bay's approach to 1.33:1 extras.
Hatred of a Minute includes a pair of commentary tracks. The first pairs writer/director/star Michael Kallio with producer Bruce Campbell. Four of my all-time favorite commentaries -- Running Time and the three Evil Dead movies -- feature Campbell, and I have to admit that his presence on this track was the biggest reason I wanted to give Hatred of a Minute a peek. The commentary track doesn't disappoint, and Campbell and Kallio play off of each other really well. There are innumerable technical notes, ranging from the specific film stock used to how certain shots were accomplished. Kallio delves into detail about some of the effects as well, including a home-rigged moon, inserting skull reflections in the eyes of doomed victims, projection-on-projection, and Mylar image warping. Campbell and Kallio also speak in general about filmmaking, and of particular interest is how certain unintended elements were discovered and shaped during editing. Along with notes of the influence of Jack the Ripper and the tragic monsters of Universal's classic horror films are mentions of their ex-wives' appearances in the film, a fairly prominent role that Glenn "Mutha!" Danzig was up for, a rotten-melon-water-drenched leather jacket, Baldo the Demon's multi-colored hair, and the hassle of spending an afternoon in a pool of Karo syrup surrounded by horseflies in 95 degree heat. Kallio and Campbell poke fun of the movie, though they both appear to have quite a bit of affection for it. Definitely an above-average discussion, managing to be both very informative and very entertaining.
Kallio repeatedly mentions the emphasis on sound design in the first commentary, and to further elaborate, he's joined by sound designer Joel H. Newport for the second track. The chat is, not surprisingly, almost entirely geared around the sound of the film. Newport talks about seemingly every individual sound incorporated into the mix, including clocks, jail cell doors, numerous types of birds, water, monkeys, crickets, frogs, flapping a big sheet, a roman candle, hyenas, a razor scraped on his forearm, the glass of a copy machine, and Exorcist-inspired pigs. Other topics of discussion include the challenge of having rain not sound like frying bacon, comparing production audio vs. those that were later Foleyed in, the extensive amount of ADR, meaningless requests for "organic" sounds, polka remixes, and Kallio's script being almost as aural as it was visual. A commentary like this could get dry and dull really quickly, but the banter and constant quipping between Kallio and Newport keep the track moving at a good pace. Not as strong as the Campbell/Kallio commentary, but still well-worth a listen.
The "Trailer and Other Video Features" submenu begins, somewhat predictably, with a trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (192Kbps). The deleted scenes, introduced as "Footage not in the film (and some that is)", run just shy of seventeen minutes in total. Most of it is silent, consisting of additional gothic dancing, some splattered organs, and what looks like lots and lots of dialogue. The final few scenes -- one with Glenn and Sarah debating Eric's innocence, another snippet excised from the climax for pacing concerns, and a redundant follow-up call to a support line -- are the only featuring any sort of introduction or discernable audio. There are also five and a half minutes of extended scenes, each with a text introduction. These three scenes -- "Eric vs. Barry", "Buried Alive", and "Date with Terry" -- had dialogue and violence, depending, pared down. Another three scenes are featured in the five minutes of "Alternate Takes", including a more flirtatious visit between Glenn and Jamie, Eric freaking out in an early Demon scene, and a repetitive scene as the cops mull over another in a series of murders. The footage is presented in anamorphic widescreen, though unlike the rest of the material up to this point, these three features are all at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Eight minutes of outtakes round out the on-set footage, as the cast cracks up, flubs lines, and fumbles with props. This timecoded rough cut footage is also presented in anamorphic widescreen, heavily windowboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The last of the video footage is from the world premiere in Royal Oak, Michigan, full-frame and running just under ten minutes in length. Bruce Campbell and Michael Kallio mug for the camera, introduce the film, field questions from the audience, and...sing. There are also brief interviews with the crowd both before and after the movie, along with their reaction to the movie's finalé.
The "Poster and Still Gallery" consists of thirty-five production stills, promotional shots, behind-the-scenes photos, and some artwork. Last on the list of set-top accessible extras are talent bios for Michael Kallio, Bruce Campbell, and Gunnar Hansen. All three biographies are pretty lengthy, particularly Bruce's nearly novel-length entry, and each of them conclude with a set of filmographies. The DVD-ROM portion of the disc includes the original 113-page screenplay in Adobe Acrobat format.
There are at least two hidden Easter Eggs, accessible by selecting Eric's eyes on the 'Extras' menu. The first is thirty seconds or so of rough cut footage (heavily pillarboxed in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen frame) with repeated footage of Glenn chuckling, as mentioned in the Campbell/Kallio commentary. The other Easter Egg is...well, just that, and since I find things like that kind of clever, I'll leave that awkwardly worded sentence as it is and avoid explicitly spoiling the surprise for anyone else.
Hatred of a Minute sports a set of 16x9-enhanced animated menus, and the movie has been divided into sixteen chapters. The disc's six pages of liner notes include an introduction from Bruce Campbell and a Reader's Digest-style overview of the filmmaking process by Michael Kallio. A chapter listing is provided on the flipside of the insert, which fits snugly in the set's Amaray keepcase.
Conclusion: Hatred of a Minute is a phenomenal DVD release, overflowing with an assortment of quality extras. The movie itself is a little tougher to recommend. I'm looking forward to seeing what Michael Kallio does with his future work; with Sam Raimi having graduated to glossier Hollywood features, it'd be welcome to have someone else with a similar sensibility still duking it out in the trenches. If Hatred of a Minute had a more polished cast and if Kallio had remained behind the camera, I think my recommendation might have been a little more enthusiastic. There's a lot of promise to be found in Hatred of a Minute, but despite the tears and years that went into bringing the project to fruition, the end result didn't completely gel for me. Devotees of low-budget horror/suspense may want to give it a peek, and the commentary with Bruce Campbell alone warrants at least a rental. As excellent a DVD release as Hatred of a Minute is, though, I wouldn't really recommend it as a blind purchase. Rent It first.
Related Links: The official Hatred of a Minute site is somewhat sparse, though it does link off to a set of trailers in Quicktime and RealVideo formats.