26 Jan 2022
Lisa Eaglesham, Rebecca Tierney, Stuart Edgar
For the seemingly never-ending tsunami of scandals that crash upon this country’s shores (courtesy of a government that embarrass themselves with a Grampa Simpson-level regularity) it’s easy to forget that quiet disgraces - like the ongoing growth in homelessness - go unaddressed and barely mentioned. It is a grim necessity that filmmakers like Robb Jayne continue to use their work to make powerful statements that highlight this – and Hostile Architecture does this superbly.
Kirsty (Lisa Eaglesham) is newly homeless and is awaiting a call from support worker Sara (Rebecca Tierney) for a room for the night. As she wanders the city streets, she experiences casual hostility from people who have little care for her circumstances. And just as the world seems to figuratively turn her away, horrifying, bizarre and very literal occurrences begin to stalk her – emanating from the very streets she walks on…
A politically-charged horror/drama, Hostile Architecture is a fantastic short which brilliantly portrays how the world treats the homeless with unnecessary cruelty. Director Robb Jayne, who has experienced homelessness himself, skewers the prevailing attitude of some in this country who view those struggling as lesser, and demonstrates that the concept of ‘hostile architecture’ (such as anti-homeless spikes or benches) is as monstrous as the supernatural creations he unleashes in the film.
Lisa Eaglesham gives a heart-wrenching performance as Kirsty – showing both an understated resilience and vulnerability as she strives to simply survive on the streets, and convincing terror as the streets themselves come after her. It is never revealed how she ended up homeless – a clear statement that it should not matter how someone comes to struggle. It is the world that chooses hostility towards her and not the other way around, as the likes of Stuart Edgar’s uncaring barista demonstrate.
For a small-budget film, production values are extremely impressive. Scenes following Kirsty are well structured – closing the audience in tight to give the impression that the world is an intimidating place. Scenes are placed from the perspective of security cameras to impressive effect – adding a documentary-style realism to proceedings. The filmmakers also use stop-motion-style visual effects to bring the horror aspects of the world to life. The surreal and otherworldly appearance of these props – particularly the thorny branches which sprout from a bench – are a fine example of the filmmakers working within their means to creatively portray their intentions, and in fact results in a more disturbing and terrifying outcome than a photorealistic equivalent could accomplish.
The film ticks the box of every great horror in that its scariness represents more than what is shown on screen. Politics are at the film’s heart, and yet the director is confident enough to trust the audience’s insight in decoding the meaning behind the story. In showing-not-telling, the film maintains an artistic integrity whilst also communicating its message in a more insightful manner.
In profoundly demonstrating the brutality of turning the world itself against people, Hostile Architecture makes a powerful political statement whilst also entertaining viewers with its engaging and emotional story and performances.