Horror goes all the way back to the silent era of movies. Since then, the genre has branches out to hundreds of different subgenres. In this past generation, a new horror genre has popped up: The Self-Aware Horror movie. I don't know exactly where it started, but Scream brought it the masses. It's a horror movie that acknowledges other horror movies, their “rules”, and their cliches. A lot of these movies go for humor and not-so-subtle references to other (and usually better) horror movies. Some of these even go as far as to acknowledge that they're just bad horror wankfests. The question is, if a movie acknowledges that it's bad, does that make it good?
Hack! Is a 2007 horror comedy starring Danica McKeller (Winnie from The Wonder Years) as the nerdy and innocent Emily. A group of college students, handsome Johnny (Jay Kenneth Johnson, Scrubs, Days Of Our Lives), homosexual Ricky (Justin Chon, Twilight, New Moon) quarterback/douchebag Tim (Travis Schuldt, Scrubs, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia), lesbian Maddy, pothead Q, and the beautiful Sylvia, are chosen to go on a field trip to a small island. They are hosted by film buff couple Vincent King (Sean Kanan, The Young & The Restless, Jack Rio) and Mary Shelley (Juliet Landau, Drusilla from Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Mary carries around a old timey movie recorder and films the students around the island. Unbeknownst to them, their teacher and boat captain have been brutally murdered. One by one, the group is picked off my what appear to be killers from different horror movies. It is revealed that the killer is in fact bother Mary and Vincent who are filming the murders for a reality snuff film that they plan to show at the Cannes Film Festival. The students receive aid from Willy (William Forsythe, Raising Arizona, Boardwalk Empire). Will Johnny be able to stop the killer and how is Emily connected to all of this?
She can be nerdy with me any day
Essentially, Hack! Is just an hour and a half of horror nerds geeking out and trying to cram as many references in as possible. I gave up counting right around the time they said the name “Mary Shelley” as one of the characters. We get it, you like horror movies. I also like hockey, that doesn't mean I want to watch an entire game based off of other hockey games from the past 100 years. Referencing and making nods to other movies is fine as long as it's done with some style, class, and creativity. Hack just clubs you over the head with them while imploring you to laugh. Beyond “Mary Shelley” and “Vincent King,” there are characters named Mr. Argento, Sheriff Stoker, and J.T. Bates. Jesus, we get it! There are a few humorous moments, but nothing that will really make you laugh out laugh. Of course there's also horrific jokes like “Free us, Willy!” that make me want to smash my laptop to keep it from ever making another terrible joke again. My biggest problem with the movie is when it acknowledges that it's full of cliches and isn't even a good movie. Why do that? That's like saying to the audience. “Oh, you're watching this movie? Well, fuck you. Fuck you in your stupid face while we jerk off at all the references we're making.
What the movie lacks in humor or creativity is it's strong cast. Just about everyone involved is a seasoned actor on either television or cinema. Juliet Landau is probably the best in the bunch as she is completely delightful and fun. She takes the role and makes it dementedly sweet. I only know her from her role on Buffy, so it was a little weird to hear her speak without an accent. Danica McKeller is also enjoyable and makes me wish she was in more movies. William Forsythe, though barely in the movie, is great as well, though inexplicably Scottish. Maybe he just wanted to do a different accent. Kane Hodder (Hatchet, a bunch of Friday the 13th movies) makes a brief appearance in the beginning, because they just had to squeeze him in too. The movie has a decent amount of action and some blood, but nothing overly thrilling.
I'm ready for my closeup
By putting more effort into purposely having cliches and referencing better movies, Hack forgot to be a good movie. It's hard enough to get through unoriginal movies, it's even worse when the movie you're watching acknowledges that it's ripping things off left and right. Even the concept is a take off of the movie Peeping Tom. They had the cast who put in good performances, despite a weak story and some horrendous comedy material. The action is fine with OK blood and gore, but even those were referencing other horror movies. We have a movie that is self-aware, breaking the 4th wall, and giving not-so-subtle winks and nods to the audience. If a movie acknowledges that it is a big nerdfest, does that someone make it an enjoyable movie? No. No it doesn't.