Programmers looking for an unusual but perfect double-bill companion for Terry Gilliam's recent "Tideland" are advised to check out "Hyena." Creepy thriller about -- but definitely not for -- children follows a little boy who befriends a murderer on the run who starts snuffing out the kid's enemies.

Programmers looking for an unusual but perfect double-bill companion for Terry Gilliam’s recent “Tideland” are advised to check out “Hyena.” Creepy thriller about — but definitely not for — children follows a little boy who befriends a murderer on the run who starts snuffing out the kid’s enemies. Adventurously shot and fluidly directed, pic won’t travel far beyond fests and specialist outfits, but it does rep an intriguing feature debut for helmer Grzegorz Lewandowski.

A pre-pubescent lad (Jakub Romanowski) — called Shorty in subtitles at projection caught (“Maly” in Polish dialogue) — lives in a small Polish township. When Shorty’s dad is killed in a mining accident, both mother (Magdalena Kumorek) and son try to carry on as if everything is normal, but Shorty’s fascination with the horror stories he and his friends tell each other on the way to school each day grows as the tales become more lurid. Wandering in the nearby woods, Shorty meets a man (Borys Szyc) with terrible burn scars, who presses Shorty into bringing him food. Title refers to an imaginary hyena Shorty believes the man turns into at night for murderous forays. Pic’s fetid atmosphere consistently compels.

Hyena

Poland

Production

A Skorpian Art, Polish Film Institute production. (International sales: Skorpian, Warsaw.) Produced by Pawel Rakowski. Directed, written by Grzegorz Lewandowski.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Arkadiusz Tomiak; editor, Andrzej Tomczak; music, Grzegorz Kamierczak; production designers, Marek Zawierucha, Sebastian Gomulka, Rafal Waltenberger; costume designer, Maria Duffek. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics Week), Sept. 6, 2006. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Jakub Romanowski, Borys Szyc, Magdalena Kumorek, Krzysztof Dracz.
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