Going into Hunger, expectations were pretty low. A cast of unknowns in what appeared to be another Saw clone does little to inspire the imagination, but Hunger is in fact a nice surprise as it delivers a fairly accomplished slice of horror.
It is a competently shot and acted film, with an intriguing if unoriginal plot. Five strangers wake up in a dark room, watched over by a mysterious observer who takes notes and studies footage of them, eager to test the limits to which they will go to survive when provided only with limited light and water for 30 days. The expectation is for them to turn to cannibalism, as hinted at by the title, and rather than just a gruesome example of torture porn we are actually given a reasonable study of characters under pressure.
The first 10 minutes or so are in almost total darkness, we can barely see the characters as they stumble around the room, encountering each other and bumping into walls. It is reminiscent of the beginning of Buried and is a brave approach, but does struggle to hold the viewer’s attention at first; a problem Hunger suffers with often.
The structure feels familiar, as onscreen captions tell us how many days into the experiment we are. This is interspersed with shots of the observer and his case files, making the viewer almost complicit in the scheme. This is in fact very effective, as we feel that we are settling in to watch some twisted version of reality TV. As some of the subjects inevitably turn to violence there are some gut-churning scenes which pick up the pace of the second half nicely as desperation begins to set in.
Sadly, though, Hunger feels too long. Many scenes are a little drawn out, and there is a feeling that a leaner 70 minute or so running time would have suited the limited setting better. It also seems to lack faith in its own premise, providing numerous flashbacks and cutaways from the main characters which negate the claustrophobia slightly.
The film’s involving structure and bold ideas go some way to mitigating its unoriginality, but a slew of drawn out sequences combined with the fatal lack of confidence at its core means that Hunger will sadly not be enough to whet all horror fans’ appetites. (pun shamefully intended)