Hammer of the Gods (2018)
Director (and writer): Nick Szostakiwskyj
Cast: Rob Raco, Josh Collins, Samantha Carly, Parmiss Sehat
Hammer of the Gods is the story of falling-from-grace rock group half a decade after the release of their hit single, as they travel deep into the Canadian wilderness on a spirit journey. – IMDB
Horror films set in the wilderness is fairly underused. The Canadian wilderness is a vast and intriguing location to choose. Hammer of the Gods sets their story in the Canadian wilderness starting right away to show off the vast nature surrounding where this starts on a big area of water, a lake that leads into a water system to start their adventure for a one time wonder rock band, Sled Dog out to find inspiration for their future music. Being a horror thriller, this one takes its story through an acid trip journey while following some specific rules set on the first night by this band for the three members and a groupie they picked up at the beginning of the trip. Hammer of the Gods is set up for success in its premise. However, in the actual execution, this is where it starts to fall apart slightly.
One of the main issues with the film is how it takes a long and dragged out first act to get to its climax point. However, once it gets there, it also has the issue of whether the reveal was slightly too early before it got to the grand finale where everything unravels to a certain point. The first act which lasts almost the first half of the film is full of very small things. There is somewhat of a Predator sort of idea where there’s these moments of something lurking in the forest observing and following. There’s the big question of whether they are hallucinations from the drug and that is the assumption that is expected to be drawn but of course, there is something more. However, after many scenes of these moments that feel somewhat disjointed but seem to also escalate a little more from one to the next, it still is done well however at one point overstays its welcome slightly. When the turning point comes and we have the first reveal of sorts, it becomes this appreciated moment but then it also seems like its still a little too abrupt and makes us wonder how much farther this story can go. What happens as it goes to the end does work but at some point, the reveal of the true nature of what lurks in this journey, how real this all is as well as the true intention of this journey (because why wouldn’t it not have another layer), turns into this dramatic point for its band members that feel already too late and inappropriate to be dealing with this when survival is the more important part of the equation.
As much as the execution as its issues, what does stand out in Hammer of the Gods is its use of its natural atmosphere and surrounds. The camerawork here works to the advantage as it helps to focus on the forest in each location. The canoe rides and the conversations all have a deeper meaning and the layout of events, although taking dragged out has a lot of atmospheric moments that create a decent level of tension. The second half of the film in that regards, aside from some dramatic moments which understandably is to give the characters some more substance, takes a turn in pace and propels quickly towards its ending. There is some tense moments and some shocking moments and some predictable moments where the character makes a desperate albeit dumb decision. There are some nicely crafted moments here but Hammer of the Gods just falls short of its potential.
Hammer of the Gods is screening at The Royal Cinema on November 24th at 4:30pm for Blood in the Snow Festival.