After watching the wildly uneven Unstable, Anthony Spadaccini’s first film in what he has dubbed “the film truth collection,” I was hesitant to watch its sequel, the all-too gloomy looking Hatred. The first film, which featured exemplary acting but was sunk by Spadaccini’s stylized/preachy directing choices, made me wonder if its follow-up could perhaps be an improvement. After all, Spadaccini had a full year in between to hone his craft and perhaps learn from his mistakes, so why not go in with an open mind? Wary but prepared, I settled in to watch Hatred.

Like its predecessor, this film takes place in a sort of alternate reality, where all of the actors are playing versions of themselves. It has been some time since the incident, when a celebratory camping trip turned into a weekend of morbid circumstance. First a murder took place, the victim being a gay teenager named Bobby and the supposed perpetrator being Anthony’s homophobic friend James. Then, to top it all off, James shot himself in the head for reasons the audience was apparently left to figure out.

These were the events of Unstable, which ended with an artsy, slow motion shot of someone opening up a mysterious manila envelope. Inside were a small videocassette and a picture, which shows James and Bobby in a friendly, almost loving pose. It was a sort of cliffhanger, I suppose, and Hatred begins by picking up with this same shot. This time around we see who’s opening the envelope, a longhaired, multi-pierced kid who seems dumbfounded by what lies inside the package. Another man, grim-faced and altogether creepy, watches as the video and picture are removed.

It is after this marginally interesting opening when the movie first trips and falters, as the next ten minutes are spent showing us clips from the first movie. This irritated me beyond belief, not only because it wasted my time but for the fact that it made me wish I hadn’t watched Unstable in the first place. Everything I need to know is in this ten-minute stretch, and frankly I think I would have enjoyed watching this more than the full-length feature. Did Spadaccini actually think his viewers would forget about what happened in his original film? It’s not like the plot is at all convoluted, for crying out loud. Why is he so afraid of trusting the audience?

Believe it or not I did sit through the montage, probably because I desperately wanted someone to hear someone say, “Last time on The Loss of Innocence!” if only for a cheap laugh. Afterwards we’re reintroduced to Spadaccini’s onscreen persona, a man who is still mourning the loss of his friends one year after their respective deaths. This time around Jeff operates the handheld camera, as he is filming Anthony while trying to make him come to his birthday party. Jeff, like many of the characters in Hatred, will see no development whatsoever, so you may as well just regard him as a means to an end. Eventually Anthony does go to the party, despite his reservations about seeing Paul and Garret, two people who have essentially hated him since the incident.

Paul and Garret, as it turns out, are the people we saw in the film’s initial scene, with the former being the grim-faced gentlemen and Garret acting as the longhaired fellow. They actually have important roles to play in this morbid little tale, but those roles are nothing more than Z-grade villains in a bad Alfred Hitchcock film. Indeed, they act as the sneaky conspirators, two men who wish to see Anthony dead. How will they make their fantasy come true? By luring him out to a deserted area under the ruse of having car troubles. It is a full-proof plan, and by the end of the night they hope to exact revenge on the man who they feel is at fault for the deaths of Bobby and Jeff.

If this all sounds a bit like a generic Hollywood thriller, then you’re on the right track. For whatever reason Spadaccini decided to make Hatred one part down-to-earth study of dealing with depression (he spends much of his screen time either moping or delivering bad eulogies to the camera) and another part spooky examination of vengeance. The two don’t mesh at all, leading me to conclude the director/writer/star did not in fact learn from the mistakes of his first film but rather embraced them outright. Half the time I felt bad for Paul and Garret, who are forced to improv bad dialogue about guns and feelings of reservation all while looking completely embarrassed.

Oh, but I’m leaving out something. See, when the movie is not focused on Anthony’s depression or his eventual murderers, the rest of the running time is spent at that lame birthday party. And it’s a lame get-together, believe you me. Everyone looks bored to tears as they play with a Magic 8 Ball, discuss deliveries of pizza, and otherwise try to make the evening move faster with snore-worthy small talk. To be honest, I would have rather watched Paul and Garret plot their murder than this junky footage. It does nothing whatsoever to heighten tension and instead made me long for a time machine.

Hatred has way too many flaws for it to be salvaged, even if the acting is for the most part just as good as that in Unstable. There are at least half a dozen major plot holes I won’t even get into here, and while the ending is contrived beyond belief I will say this: at least they can’t make another sequel. Spadaccini needs to wake up and shake off his youthful director sensibilities, since mindless story machinations and an innate need to “shock” the audience with clichés will get him nowhere.

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