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Yes, I, like you, am sick of low budget serial killer movies, but this controversial film stands out from the crowd in a number of ways, most notably its heavily gay subtext.  If this offends you, Iíve got three words of advice: Get over it! 

The Package 
     HARD first came to my attention in an LA WEEKLY article detailing how the movie lab DeLuxe refused to process the film because employees were offended by its content; an angry supervisor apparently called director John Huckert proclaiming ďwe have women that work here!Ē  Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued, and the finished film, now that Iíve finally seen it, turns out to be an effective thriller, even if never approaches the level of masterworks like MANHUNTER or SE7EN.
     To its credit, HARD pays little heed to political correctness in depicting LAís gay subculture, which naturally led to all sorts of criticism from the homosexual community, who had problems with the lack of ďheroicĒ gay characters.  Thus the filmmakers, gay men themselves, were forced to endure the sort of mudslinging that afflicted the heterosexual makers of gay-themed thrillers like CRUISING and BASIC INSTINCT (both of which HARD recalls in various aspects).  Thatís despite the fact that Huckert had valiant intentions (or so he claims), and an honest to goodness message about the violence with which society discards its more expendable members.  None of that mattered to the filmís accusers, however; political correctness, it seems, spares nobody, including those it means to protect.
     For more info on the film and a proposed follow-up, see
here and here.

The Story 
     Jack is a gay drifter with a habit of picking up hitchhikers and runaways and then brutally murdering them.  Raymond is a rookie detective confronted with Jackís handiwork.  Raymond suspects a serial killer is afoot but his superiors prefer not to believe him, simply writing off the killings as deadly accidents among people who are better off dead. 
     Raymond has a secret his co-workers donít know about: heís a closeted queer who spends his off-hours frequenting gay clubs.  One night he takes a man home for some backside action; what he doesnít realize is that his conquest is Jack, the killer, who leaves Raymond handcuffed to a bedpost and steals his badge.  This becomes a real nightmare for Raymond when the stolen badge is found lodged in the throat of Jackís latest victim.  Finding himself under suspicion for the killings, Raymond is forced to come out of the closet and admit his preference for gay one night stands, leading to harassment from his homophobic co-workers. 
     Jack, for his part, takes to making cackling phone calls to Raymond, daring him to sniff out Jackís whereabouts and stop him before he kills again.  Two more murders occur before Raymond manages to track Jack to his shadowy lair in the bowels of an abandoned theater, where a bloody confrontation awaits.

The Direction
     This is a traditional serial killer movie in many respects, particularly in the early scenes, which, although well done, have little to distinguish them from the thousand or so other serial killer programmers littering video store shelves.  As the film goes on, however, it improves, with a profoundly oppressive aura that grows increasingly pungent; itís a DARK movie, in every sense of the word.  The climactic cop/killer confrontation could admittedly be a little better, as could the open-ended finale, but they donít detract from the rest of the film.
     As in SE7EN, the gruesome murders are seen mostly after the fact (the filmmakers have admitted to studying that film closely), via a series of hideously mutilated corpses.  And yes, there are some fairly graphic homosexual sex scenes, not to mention copious full-frontal male nudity, about which prospective viewers should really take into account the three words of advice offered in the opening paragraph of this review.

Vital Statistics 

MPH Productions 

Director: John Huckert
Producers: John Huckert, John Matkowsky, Noel Palomaria
Screenplay: John Huckert, John Matkowsky
Cinematography: John Matkowsky
Editing: John Huckert
Cast: Noel Palomaria, Malcolm Moorman, Charles Lanyer, Michael Waite, Paula Kay Perry, Alex DePedro, Bob Hollander, Steve Andrews, K.D. Jones, Ken Narasaki, Steve Gonzales