★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Rock and Roll mixed with hallucinogens that reveal horrible truths. What could possibly go wrong?
Directed by Nick Szostakiwskyj
Those attending the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland got treated to a world premiere debut: the Canadian film Hammer of the Gods. It is a story about a past-their-prime rock band, named Sled Dog, who has just completed a big Globe Trotting tour in Vancouver. They can hear the whispers. They are a one-hit wonder. Perhaps now they are also a has-been band, who are clinging to the success of their single big hit, Backfire. And in reaction to this, the band has taken to the great outdoors to try and recapture the magic, since their big hit was the result of a similar wilderness outing and a lot of recreational drugs.
Soon after bandmates Eric (Rob Raco as the writer and guitarist), Olivia (Samantha Carly, the drummer) and Mitchell (Josh Collins, the bassist) take to their canoes, they encounter a group of young women, one of whom, April (Parmiss Sehat), is a huge fan of the band, and is invited on their journey of self-discovery. April is warned that there will be lots of hallucinogens involved, and she insists that she can handle it, and the quartet head down river to see if they can rekindle their lost musical mojo.
As soon as they set up camp, they all drop some tabs of LSD (or what they THINK is LSD)… but it initially doesn’t seem to work like they expected. In fact, the whole experience might have been a dud. A bad batch, perhaps? In the morning, though, Eric finds that he blacked out at the river, and seems to have recorded something in the middle of the night, without even knowing it. It’s a frustrating moment, as he is desperate to gain real insights for new songs. And then things get weird. The hallucinogens start producing not just vivid trippy colors, but also reveal the presence of something potentially ominous around them, and inside them.
Soon, the effects escalate, and truly horrible symptoms arise, and their trip of discovery turns into a trip of survival, and a mad dash to get to the final checkpoint downstream. To make matters worse, they are pursued by monstrous humanoids made manifest by their drug intake, and are suffering mightily from physical ailments from the bad batch of drugs that they ingested. Don’t do drugs, kids… or THIS might happen to you!
Hammer of the Gods was the most straightforwardand entertaining of the feature films I saw at the HPLFF this year. The pace of the story was brisk, and the situation immediately identifiable. There’s a little bit of This is Spinal Tap (1984) here, a little Cabin Fever (2002), a touch of Amost Famous (2000) and a handful of Shrooms (2007). The Rock and Roll lifestyle is a seductive mistress, and it will make people do some pretty stupid shit.
The acting was really solid all around, and I particularly liked Josh Collins as Mitch, who is the most amenable of the party. Rob Raco is also well cast as the arrogant, and frustrated frontman, who is harboring secrets that could jeopardize all their lives. I really appreciated the editing job for a film like this. It didn’t linger too long in any one scenario and the director knew how to get in and get out of scenes such that the audience always knew the stakes, and we felt the building of the pressure.
This is the second feature film from A Farewell to Kings productions, director Nick Szostakiwskyj, and his DP Cameron Tremblay. Their first outing was Black Side Mountain, a similar wilderness survival horror tale, which is currently available for streaming.
Hammer of the Gods is Not rated, (would be R, mostly for drug use, but a little bit of gore) and because it is an indie picture just making its debut, it is likely going to be on the film circuit for a while, and therefore not available for rent or streaming. However, if it comes to a festival near you, it is definitely worth checking out. Many thanks to Brian and Gwen Callahan for bringing this early release for the Portland audience to enjoy!
As soon as a trailer is made available, The Scariest Things will bring it to you!