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Hard Home (2024) Review

Somebody seems to have a lot of faith in director James Bamford. After years of working as a stuntman and directing episodes of mostly DC Comics related TV shows, Hard Home is his fourth film to see release this year. The fact that the previous three, Air Force One Down, Jade, and Shadow Land left a lot to be desired is, of course, another matter.

Here he’s working from a script by Mark Shea Price, whose previous credits consists of shorts such as The Mayans Were Right and Raised by Fish. It opens with Mary (Simone Kessell, Terra Nova, Yellowjackets) jogging through the woods and attracting the attention of a Polaroid wielding psycho (Andrew Howard, True Memoirs of an International Assassin, Bates Motel) when she stops to check out an old cemetery.

He shrugs off being maced, but just as he’s about to kill her, she injects him with something that knocks his ass out. She throws him in her Land Rover and drives off to her gated, high-tech, smart mansion which she, of course, designed and built. It seems he’s the serial killer known as Diablo, and one of his victims was her daughter Kelly (Rosie Day, The Convent, Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon). And now, she plans to use the house’s security features to become a high-tech version of Jigsaw.

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The film has barely started when we get the cliché of the killer the cops can’t catch after years of trying being taken down by an amateur who knows just where to look and also happens to be irresistible bait. Almost as big a cliché, a serial killer who murders women as a result of being abused as a child by his psycho mother. It also lays the sentimentality on with a trowel. We see Kelly on crutches due to medical issues, hear that she qualified for a new, experimental treatment for her condition and then as soon as she’s cured, she becomes one of Diablo’s victims.

But perhaps the biggest problem is that Mary, isn’t content to simply shackle him up in the cellar and slice pieces off of him, as in everything from 7 Days to 3: An Eye for an Eye to I Spit on Your Grave and all of its various remakes and sequels. Instead, she’s turned her house into a maze full of newspaper clipping about his crimes, screens showing news coverage of them and painful, if not lethal, traps.

Now she sits in a room full of monitors along with a literal shrine to her daughter, using the security system to send him from one display to another, occasionally triggering an electric shock or something similar. She may not be as psychotic as he is, but she’s obviously not all there either.

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I’m not sure what the filmmakers, thought watching Diablo mutely go from one display based on his crimes would do for the audience, but it didn’t scare me or build any tension. It was actually boring because, although the argument can be made that he was as much a victim of his mother as his victims were of his torture, he’s hardly a sympathetic figure. If you just want to see him suffer, you might find it interesting, otherwise it’s pretty tedious.

It’s not until he defeats her high-tech measures with a thrown rock and manages to turn the tables on her that things become even remotely suspenseful. But even that is constantly interrupted by flashbacks to Mary doing her investigating, talking with FBI Agent Wall (Rachel Adedeji, R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned, Hollyoaks), driving her husband Robert (Joseph Millson, Fyre Rises, Dragonheart Vengeance) away and endless repeats of the same footage of young Diablo being screamed at by his mother.

There’s also a subplot involving Mary’s neighbour Jiao (Daphne Cheung, Ashes, Spider-Man: Far from Home) that is as far fetched as anything else in the script and exists only to provide a last minute save from the corner the script has written itself into.

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There’s also an element of racism and classism to Hard Home that’s hard not to notice. An uber rich white woman has to save the other white women of America from a Latino serial killer who works as a day labourer. That’s because the black FBI agent assigned to the case proves to be incapable of catching him. The film’s one other non-white character, Jiao, is portrayed as such a whiny Karen that 911 has flagged her number and refuses to respond to her calls. It just serves as a rancid frosting on an already shitty cake.

Hard Home is hard to sit through, but for all the wrong reasons. And after watching it, I’m surprised not that the distributor delayed sending out review screeners until the day of release, but that they sent them out at all, they had to have known this wasn’t going to get good reviews.

Hard Home is available on Digital Platforms via Paramount’s Republic Pictures label.

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