After the death of his father, Ben, Kelly Blatz (“Prom Night”, “Timeless”) goes on a trip to Cambodia with his friend Isaac, Ross McCall (“White Collar (TV)”, “Crash (TV)”) to clear his mind.
There, he meets Amber, Jenny Boyd (“Clean Sheets (Short)”, “Viking Quest”)), a beautiful American woman also spending her holidays strolling around the beach and getting scammed by local merchants.
Sparks don’t really seem to fly during their first encounter, but a romance soon blossoms between them anyway and pushes them both to stay in Cambodia together. After a very short time of bliss, however, strange things start to happen and threaten both of their lives.
While the very beginning of Hex looks a lot like any romantic comedy, it is still clear that something is hiding under the surface, especially regarding Amber’s strange behavior towards Ben.
She not only acts of two opposite minds (rejecting Ben’s advances one day to ask him out the next) but also embodies a kind of male fantasy that can only conceal something else, her sexual drive and moments of fragility taking turn in enticing Ben further.
This idea that something isn’t quite right becomes more and more prominent once dreadful dreams and bodily possession à la Exorcist start to turn Ben & Amber’s new romance into a nightmare.
These horrific elements are well done both in terms of tension and special effects, and showcase Jenny Boyd’s talent who is often at the heart of these scenes – not that Kelly Blatz doesn’t shine just the same as the charming lead, constantly wearing a dumbfounded air on his face.
Although the secondary characters only get a short amount of screen-time, all make their parts work as well, especially the local Cambodian actors.
Cambodia itself is actually really well-used and not just for the few beautiful landscape shots: as a tourist, Ben feels helpless and alone in this country too different from his own, and the constant reminders of the thriving sex slavery & sex tourism of the area only exacerbate the threatening atmosphere surrounding the couple.
Whenever the protagonists try to rationalize the events that are happening to them, the explanations they come up with are never convincing enough and lead the spectator to wait for the shoe to drop.
It finally happens during a nightmarish finale that delivers, the film finally fully indulging in the horror genre with great special effects and a decent twist, but still leaves unsatisfied regarding the plot, ultimately too simple and straightforward.
Hex inadvertently promises a bit more than it provides, especially because of a plot that lets the viewers fill in the blanks with conjectures and theories that can make the end result weaker in comparison.
Still, Hex is a well-made horror film in every other aspect and will please fans of the genre who are looking for something modest to get their teeth into.