It’s 1644 and the English Civil War rages on. It’s against this bloody background that writer/directors George Popov and Jonathan Russell have set their debut film Hex. A tale of two soldiers from opposing sides of the war who must work together to deal with the evil that dwells in the woods.
A Royalist, Richard (Daniel Oldroyd) and one of Cromwell’s soldiers Thomas (William Young) find themselves cut off from their respective armies after a battle. When their paths cross they do what soldiers do, try to kill each other. First in toe to toe combat and then stalking each other through the woods.
However, they both begin to suspect they’re not the only ones here. A feeling reinforced by the presence of witch signs and glimpses of a strange woman (Suzie Frances Garton, Werewolves Of The Third Reich). Will their fear of the supernatural and hatred of witches prove stronger than their fear and hatred of each other?
Hex starts off with a long, drawn-out fight between the two soldiers. This could have worked with good choreography and a faster pace. But the slow, laboured combat we see here gets tedious fast. While I get the feeling it may be more historically accurate than what we’re used to, what works for documentaries doesn’t always work for entertainment.
It is, however, a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the film. With a cast of four, one of whom plays a corpse, Hex is a small scale film that puts the slow in slow burn. The first act is almost entirely without dialogue. Even after they come to an uneasy truce Richard and Thomas don’t have a lot to say.
Despite this Hex does manage to maintain an air of tension and not just because of the witch. There’s also the strong feeling that they could turn on each other at any minute. Something the film exploits quite cleverly. That, along with a handful of decidedly creepy scenes are what keeps the film watchable.
Hex would probably have worked a lot better at closer to seventy minutes than ninety. Trimming out some of the slower moments would have made helped maintain what pace there is and sharpened the suspense. As it is, Hex has an ending that asks more questions than it answers. But more than a few viewers may have checked out by then.
If you don’t mind the occasional slow spots, Hex is worth a watch. Popov and Russel get a lot on the screen for having a budget of about $1,300, They also do a great job of making a sunlit forest seem ominous and evil.
Hex is available via Indie Rights. You can check the Rubicon Films Facebook page for more about the production.