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Hack! (2007)

Allumination Filmworks
DVD Released: 12/11/2007

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/25/2007

For members of Generation X, Winnie Cooper, the character from the television show The Wonder Years, can still conjure images of the unobtainable dream girl. Winnie was played by actress Danica McKellar, who is now grown and recently did the talk-show circuit promoting her new book, Math Doesn't Suck. You see, McKellar left acting and graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and went on to co-author a paper in math. Thus, McKellar is now being promoted as an attractive genius. In my opinion, she can't be very smart if she actually read the script for Hack! and agreed to be in this stinker.

As Hack! opens, we are introduced to a group of college students; the shy, bookish Emily (Danica McKellar); handsome and sensitive Johnny (Jay Kenneth Johnson); football jock Tim (Travis Schuldt); sissy Asian guy Ricky (Justin Chon); hip African-American guy "Q" (Wongdy Bruny); sexy foreign girl Sylvia (Gabrielle Richens); and goth girl Maddy (Adrienne Frantz). Despite the fact that most of the people in this group talk about film class and movies, they and their teacher, Mr. Argento (Mike Wittlin), charter a boat to an island for a study of biology. They reach the island and meet their hosts, Vincent King (Sean Kanan) and Mary Shelley King (Julient Landau). The King's are very nice hosts, although it is odd the way that Mary keeps sticking her old movie camera into everyone's face. The next day, the group sets out to study tidepools, and one-by-one the students begin to disappear. Is there a killer on this island?

It's one thing to not understand a movie -- this certainly happens from time-to-time, as movie's can either be poorly made or inscrutably vague. But, it's quite another to not know what a movie's goal is. Typically it's easy to place a movie into some sort of genre and the viewer knows if the movie wants us to laugh, cry, be frightened, etc. Even if the movie doesn't meet these goals, at least we know what it's trying to do.

I have no idea what Hack! was supposed to be. OK, I take that back. I can identify the fact that Hack! has that "fanboy" air about it, as we have characters with names such as Argento, Carpenter, Bates, King, Stoker, Mary Shelley, and given that lineup, I've got to assume that the character named Roth was a nod to Eli Roth, but he certainly doesn't belong with those other names. Given this, Hack! must be one of those wink-wink-nudge-nudge movies that wants us to know that writer/director Matt Flynn loves horror films just as much as we do.  So, if he loves horror movies so much, then how could he deliver this abysmal film to us?

The DVD box (which gives away what I took to be a mystery in the movie) tells us that this is a horror/comedy. Really, because I detected neither. Granted, the movie has some gory murders, but that's where its resemblance to a horror film ends. There is no suspense here, mostly due to the fact that Flynn doesn't attempt to create any. Most of the murders occur quite suddenly, and Flynn opts for this "shock" effect rather than the creation of any tension. As for comedy, I didn't find anything in the film to be overtly humorous, again because I don't think the movie was trying to be funny outside of the typical one-liners found in slasher movies.

The fact that Hack! has a personality crisis only enhances the wafer-thin plot and the shoddy editing here. Once the group reaches the island and sets out on their expedition, the movie essentially runs out of story and we just watch the students die one-by-one. The finale introduces some twists, but they are either predictable or are so poorly explained that they have no effect on the viewer. The movie takes a turn for the worst when the group separates to work on their project, as it does a very poor job of cutting back and forth between the various characters and it's very easy to lose track of who's doing what and who had died.

Even as I look over my notes and this review, I don't know what the goal of Hack! was. Is it a straight-ahead horror movie? No. Could it be a Scary Movie-like spoof of horror movies? The fact that a clown roams the woods with no explanation would suggest this, but there are no obvious jokes here. Is it a homage to slasher movies? This was most likely the goal, but killing off teenagers and naming characters after horror icons doesn't make for a good movie. In any event, Hack! is dull, boring, and most of all, confusing. I realize that the title is meant to be a joke (it's even used as such in the movie), but I can't help but think that it describes those involved with making this film.

Hack! has no idea what it's doing on DVD courtesy of Allumination Filmworks. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a low-budget film, the image looks quite good, as the picture is very clear. The daytime shots show no grain and no defects from the source material. The night time scenes look fine as well and the image is never overly dark. The colors also look good, most notably the greens of the forest. Close inspection shows a lack of detail and some slight distortion in some shots, but otherwise the transfer is not bad. The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While it doesn't have the power of a 5.1 track, this track sounds very good, as the stereo effects are fine and we get some nice bass response from the front channel. Actually, I found the clarity of the dialogue to be much better than some 5.1 tracks.

The lone extra on the Hack! DVD is a trailer for the film, which is letterboxed, but not 16 x 9, so it looks tiny.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long