Published on April 16th, 2013 | by Clint Davis2
Hunger (Fangoria Frightfest) 
Summary: Hunger attempts to ask its audience how far they would go in the name of survival, but it's nightmarish premise is sold short by an underwritten script.
R | 102 min.
Director: Steven Hentges | Screenplay: L.D. Goffigan
Starring: Lori Heuring, Joe Egender, Linden Ashby
Studio: 5 States, Global Empire Studios, Liberty Artists | Distribution: Lightning Media (USA)
**This review was a reader request from Andy in Kettering, Ohio. Thanks, Andy!**
On paper, Hunger presents a terrifying premise that’s sure to make any audience member squirm at the thought of being put through its ringer. On screen, it comes out as a half-baked Saw ripoff that never quite lives up to the potential of its grisly promise.
As a selection of the annual Fangoria Frightfest series, you’ll be wise to expect B-movie performances and production values in this film. Director Steven Hentges squeezes every penny of his budget though, giving Hunger a surprisingly strong look–I wouldn’t call it beautiful by any means, but he manages to pull the setting off. The entirety of the movie takes place between two locations, a dimly-lit claustrophobic cavern and a well-furnished study. The small cast are able to wear the same clothing through the duration, so these devices allowed for more money to be spent on gore.
The movie follows five characters who wake up in a cave following a drug-induced slumber. The only things in sight are a few month’s worth of water and toilet paper, a clock that’s set to count down thirty days, and a scalpel used for separating human flesh from bone (AKA: a party at Jame Gumb’s house!). Meanwhile, an unnamed researcher watches the subjects from a nearby room complete with closed-circuit feeds to cameras and microphones picking up every move in the cave. The characters become wise to what’s expected of them and sides form with some electing to engage in murder and cannibalism in the name of surviving this sick experiment.
Hunger attempts to convey several themes including sticking to one’s guns in the face of adversity, and exercising control over another human. Perhaps the most blatant message at work in this film though, is Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest. L.D. Goffigan’s screenplay attempts to ask the audience how far they would be willing to go in order to survive. The problem is, this movie doesn’t have enough writing to successfully portray such an idea.
We get sparse bits of exposition on the five unlucky characters caught in this horrifying social experiment. There’s nice guy Grant (Linden Ashby), who’s flannel shirt tells us he’s a former contractor before he even opens his mouth. Soft-spoken accountant Alex (Julian Rojas) who’s meant to represent the law-abiding citizen we can most relate to. Then we have young dancer Anna (Lea Kohl) and bad boy Luke (Joe Egender), who reveal early that they’ve both killed people in the past. Finally, we have our central character Jordan (Lori Heuring), a blonde doctor who represents the north-pointing moral compass of this gang. Of all the cast, we seem to get the least information on Jordan–despite the fact that she’s the film’s protagonist. I kept holding on for a big reveal about her true nature but it turns out they just half-assed her backstory.
Any review of Hunger would be incomplete without a mention of its obvious debt of gratitude to both the Saw series and the cult classic Cube. In the film’s first act, the characters attempt to figure out why they were chosen for this situation, with the link believed to be their involvements in another person’s death–but this idea is seemingly forgotten about when we realize that neither Jordan or Alex have any criminal past. Jigsaw is a memorable villain because in his mind, he’s not killing innocent people, he’s giving sinners a chance to save their own lives through a painful series of deadly trials. In Hunger, we come to understand the overseer’s obsession with turning to cannibalism through a series of flashbacks which also give us a slight sense of why he’s carrying this experiment out–but it would have made him seem more calculating had we understood his selection process a bit better.
The movie kills much of its mood by following the rules of common sense so loosely. The characters don’t seem to lose any weight after even 22 days without food, and even have enough energy to get into a physical fight! Meanwhile, if I go an entire work shift without eating, I feel like I’m going to fold like a pile of laundry. On top of the performances being wooden, Hunger is full of dialogue that came straight out of screenwriting for seventh graders–such as when Luke accuses Jordan of being a “fucking cunt whore bitch”. It’s a wonder they didn’t just skip the voting process and mail Goffigan the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. On a side note, I’m also asking myself why movies like this always take place in Ohio? Between this and The Silence of the Lambs, I’m beginning to think Hollywood sees my state as a bunch of repressed psychopaths.
Overall, Hunger feels like a terrifying idea that ended up being underwritten at every turn. This is typically the case with horror films but most of the time you can count on a memorable twist at the conclusion that makes you forget about much of the awfulness preceding it. This movie’s climax was telegraphed all the way and falls flat upon execution, the final twenty minutes are actually the slowest of the lot. Hunger uses its gore effectively and some sound effects are downright disgusting during the more effective sequences, but don’t go into this film expecting to be terrified.