Hungry Joe is a short horror film about a mother whose son’s appetite knows no cessation.
The film starts with Laura, happy with her husband in a new home with a new baby on the way, but that quickly changes once her son arrives. He screams constantly, needs fed nonstop, and has chewed her breasts until they are bruised and bloody. When Laura raises her difficulty with the health visitor, she is immediately shut down with shame, that she must put in the effort to breastfeed him, it’s the best for the baby so she is selfish if she wants to stop, and it is important for bonding, as though any complaint about the process must be some unnatural rejection of her motherhood entirely. The sense of failure and shame instilled in her as a new mother is all too recognisable.
Then, as he grows, she is unable to keep up with his demand for food. Her husband has left her, and she struggles with the financial burden of feeding Joe. She has to turn to food banks to cope with his ravenous demand. When the school draws her in, it is to accuse her of neglect, as Joe always seems underfed and desperately hungry at school. To her disgust, she finds he has started to eat out the bins. The school say they have no option but to refer her to the social to be investigated as an unfit parent.
When he has grown into adolescence, he no longer goes to school, but is almost entirely confined to the house. Neighbourhood cats are going missing, and Joe seems to be creeping out to catch and feast upon live animals at night. He has become a local legend, and children dare each other to post rotting food through his letter box. The kids sing, “Hungry Joe! Hungry Joe!”
Laura too almost never leaves the house. They are pariahs. Having exhausted avenues for help with medical and social services, and met with nothing but condemnation, she faces the prospect of being chained to Joe for life. She dreams at night of throwing him into a fire as a baby, and while waking hopes he will one day choke. Finally at the end of her tether, she kills herself.
And so Joe comes full circle. He consumed his mother’s body to build his own, fed from it insatiably through infancy, and upon her death, he devours her entirely.
Cool idea, perhaps imperfectly executed. I feel it could have been shorter, tighter, with less repetition.
One thing, if you have an eating disorder, this might not be the film for you. I mean, I know that’s obvious from the everything of the plot, but actually there is one particular aspect I found quite effecting. The foley is superb, and perfectly conveys the horror of eating. Like, every scene where Joe or anyone else was eating, I just wanted to close my eyes and cover my ears, coz the sound of it is just unbearably gross. Take it from me.