In this Polish film about the horrors of everyday life, Tomasz Giezma (Maciej Musiałowski) is a young sociopath who has just gotten kicked out of a law school for plagiarizing one of his papers. Unfortunately, this means that Tomasz not only needs to find a new place to live but he also needs to find a way to make money. Unlike many of his classmates, Tomasz does not come from a rich family. In fact, his way through law school was being paid for by Zofia (Danuta Stenka) and Robert Krasucki (Jacek Koman). The Krasuckis are a prominent and wealthy progressive family and they somewhat condescendingly viewed Tomasz as being a good deed. They’re happy to pay his law school tuition but they certainly don’t want him in their house or anywhere near the daughter, Gabi (Vanessa Aleksander).
Though a chance meeting at a club, Tomasz is able to convince Beata Santorska (Agata Kulesza) to give him a job at Best Buzz Public Relations. Despite the cheerful name, Best Buzz actually specializes in destroying online reputations. Everyone from health food corporations to politicians hires Best Buzz to bring down their enemies. Working at Best Buzz means access to hundreds of fake social media accounts, all of which can be used to wreck havoc. Many of Best Buzz’s employees can’t handle the ruthless negativity necessary for their job. Tomasz, however, thrives.
When the Krasuckis discover that Tomasz is no longer a student, they try to shut him out of their lives. Feeling betrayed by them and especially by Gabi, Tomasz takes his anger out on the progressive politician, Pawel Rudnicki (Maciej Stuhr), whom the family is supporting in the Warsaw mayoral election. Spending his days as a Rudnicki campaign aide and his nights spreading disinformation online, Tomasz schemes to destroy both Rudnicki and the Krasuckis. When he comes across a nationalist vlogger (Adam Gradowski), Tomasz feels that he has found the perfect vehicle for his revenge.
Before saying anything else, I’m going to go ahead and acknowledge the obvious. Yes, The Hater does have a similar feel and plot to Nightcrawler, right down to Tomasz eventually entering into a sexual relationship with his morally conflicted boss. Both films focus on a hollow-eyed, pathological liar who uses the media to not only fuel his own fantasies of success but to also take revenge on those whom he feels have slighted him. Whether that similarity is intentional or not, I don’t know. And, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Similarities aside, both Nightcrawler and The Hater work as both horror and social commentary because they are very much rooted in the real world. Both films are about humanity’s thirst for blood. Nightcrawler was about the desire of audiences to watch people suffer. The Hater is about the online desire to be a part of the largely anonymous mob that does the destroying.
(To me, there is no more disturbing phrase than “Twitter, do you thing!” because that thing is almost inevitably linked to destroying a stranger. That destruction has become social media’s “thing” should scare the Hell out of anyone.)
The Hater is a powerful film. Interestingly enough, there are no easy heroes to be found in the film. The Krasuckis are the type of wealthy liberals who combine self-righteous indignation with a total lack of self-awareness. Claiming to be concerned with the underpriveleged while, at the same time, treating the ones that they actually meet with vapid condescension, the Krasuckis are difficult to sympathize with. Even the genuinely well-meaning mayoral candidate often seems to be almost impossibly naive. Interestingly enough, one of the few characters to show any genuine empathy for someone other than himself is the incel vlogger who Tomasz manipulates into doing his dirty work. Whatever other flaws the vlogger has, he genuinely cares about his grandmother. One of the more interesting scenes in the film finds Tomasz trying to get out of an awkward situation by mimicking the vlogger’s emotions. In the end, Tomasz is good at mimicking human behavior but the emptiness of his soul is readily apparent.
In the end, for all the talk about politics in the film, Tomasz has no idealogical motivations. Instead, he’s simply driven by a need to destroy. He’s a monster but he’s a realistic monster, which makes him the most frightening type of monster of all.