Hoard review | Luna Carmoon’s feature debut is uncompromising and gross in equal measure

Hoard review
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Saura Lightfoot Leon stars in Luna Carmoon’s impressive debut film as the daughter of a hoarder. Here’s our Hoard review. 

On the set of her debut feature Luna Carmoon sprayed a scent, appropriately titled Secretions Magnifique, that was designed to emulate the smells of sperm, blood, sweat, tears to immerse her actors more in the mood of the film. That might sound gross, but that’s kind of the point. Hoard is unapologetically disgusting, but a deeply empathetic film about sexuality, loneliness and grief. 

Hoard opens with a mother-daughter duo, Cynthia (Hayley Squires) and Maria (Lily-Beau Leach) digging through bins to find treasures that they take back to their overflowing flat. Cynthia is hoarder, emotionally attached to every single piece of clutter in her house. She nearly breaks down when she thinks Maria didn’t bring back the peels of her orange and tinfoil back from school. Maria’s childhood is messy (literally), but also filled with love and joy as she and Cynthia share a close bond, sleeping on the floor or watching TV. 

Years later, Maria, now played by Saura Lightfoot Leon, has been placed in foster care. Her foster mother is a kind lady, not the usual type that you see in these films. Maria is about to leave school, finding herself at a crossroads. As her foster mother’s old foster kid Michael (Joseph Quinn) comes to stay for a few weeks, Maria’s already chaotic state of mind is hurled into the stratosphere. 

Hoard joseph quinn
Credit: Vertigo Releasing

Carmoon shoots Cynthia’s home with a mixture of disdain and understanding. Yes, it’s a health hazard with too much stuff, but it’s also like a little nest where Cynthia and Maria exist, away from the judging eyes of those who just don’t get it. Carmoon’s directing throughout is defined by empathy and a willingness to explore the uncomfortable things others won’t touch with a 10 foot pole. 

The film begins with Maria’s low voice telling us, “I murdered my mother, you see”, the meaning of the words not quite clear to us yet. “I feel dizzy now. You will too, I promise,” she continues with that guttural voice. There’s something primal in it and Hoard is a feral movie in many ways. There’s a lot here to put you off not just your dinner, but the film itself. 

But there’s also such overpowering sweetness. Cynthia presents Maria with a huge jar of colourful chalk and calls it their “neverending catalogue of love”. The fact that it comes after Maria confesses to being ashamed of how she and Cynthia live makes it so much more emotional. If anything, Hoard is an overwhelming concoction of emotions but Carmoon’s real achievement is how physical and tangible her film feels. 

We can’t actually smell Secretions Magnifique, but we can sure feel it. There’s a lot of piss, blood, spit and all kinds of bodily fluids in Hoard and the relationship between Maria and Michael is fascinating, if deeply inappropriate. Quinn brings a wonderful humanity to Michael, who seems to understand Maria like no one else can. They’re kindred spirits, but Michael also challenges Maria, allowing her to embrace a side of herself that she has always deemed to be too gross, too wild or too much. 

It doesn’t always come together quite as smoothly as it should. Hoard shows Carmoon’s impressive vision, even if the execution falters at times. There’s a threat here that Carmoon pushes the film’s narrative a little too far, making it weird for weirdness sake. At over two hours, Hoard is also far longer than it needs to be and the narrative is a little unfocused when it delves into Michael’s personal life. 

Regardless, this is a stirring debut from Carmoon, announcing her as a bold new voice in British cinema. If Hoard is the starting point for the director, it’ll be exciting to see where she goes next. 

Hoard is in UK cinemas now. 

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