Killer movies occupy a niche in the horror film canon. I’m talking Halloween, Child’s Play, Happy Death Day, the best sleeper films when you’re 14. Often considered one of the lower subgenres of horror, compared to brain horror like Get Out, its influence is undeniable. You walk up the stairs when you turn off the basement light, open the shower curtain to the entrance and you know you never want to be the only car at Makeout Point. Hunting is the latest addition to this canon, and unfortunately it does so rather poorly. Screenwriters Vincent Paronnaud and Léa Pernolle had too many ideas and took too much time exploring them, resulting in a boring and confusing film.
Little Red Riding Hood is not very good
Paronno and Pernolle cannot be held responsible for creativity and risk. Paronno, the director of Hunted, also directed the excellent animated film Persepolis in 2007, so many, including myself, were blown away by his unique directorial style in a thriller context. Hunted was marketed as a feminist thriller based on Little Red Riding Hood, which is a cool concept, but they blew it.
The film begins with a woman and a boy in the woods, around a campfire, and I think we should assume they are mother and son. It tells the story of a woman accused of witchcraft and pursued by fanatics in the forest, where she joined forces with wolves and killed them. It would be an intelligent framing device that looked just like this at first, but for some reason these two random characters come back later in an unlikely and strange way, but I digress.
Eva, our heroine, played by Lucy Debay, works as a supervisor for a construction company in Belgium. She was attacked by her boss, and through text messages, we see that she has a fight with her husband for some reason. To get some fresh air, she leaves her phone in the hotel room – the biggest mistake you can make – and heads to the bar to drink mojitos. A handsome American (Arieh Vortalter) buys her and they engage in a sinister flirtation when he takes her back to his car to kiss her. His partner, an awkward Brit known only as Andy (Ciaran O’Brien), chases them away, and the horror begins.
So close, but not.
The real crux of the film is when Eva, after being involved in an accident, runs away from the men and into the woods. Here’s what I think should have happened. I think she ran away all night, tried to find someone else to help her, and finally killed her captors before being beaten and bloodied in a small town, and then the credits. Deeply confusing, Paronnaud and Pernolle spent about 3 days creating a timeline for this film. It really bothered me how much of a loser he was. At one point Eva finds a deer, pulls it up and then falls asleep after escaping. You have to keep running! No rest for the abductee!
This cat and mouse hunt continues for two more days, and at one point mother and son are in it from the start when an American kills the mother and accidentally brings her back to life with a taser. The finale is a sequence of works by André Breton, with inexplicable makeup and one of the most amazing and unsatisfying death scenes I’ve ever encountered.
No resolution for you!
The key word in this film is unsatisfactory. Under no circumstances does Eve make the decision to walk away alone. She drags through the woods and throws a stone at them until she accidentally turns her back on the men chasing her, then she runs and throws a stone at them. Because when she was kind of a bloodthirsty warrior, I had no idea where that anger and skill came from. I felt like I was stuck in one of those dreams where I couldn’t run or scream and just watched something unravel that I couldn’t change at all.
We also had the chance to learn more about the American, his accomplice, his mother and son, and even Eva herself, and the filmmakers chose to completely ignore her story in favor of this psychopathic situation. It’s not necessarily a bad strategy, audiences certainly don’t need legends about all the characters to appreciate or sympathize with a film. But this becomes a problem if there are no parameters that allow characters to bounce or react to each other. Why does the American keep calling people Andy? Why wouldn’t Eva want her phone? How can an accomplice compete with an American? Who are the surviving mother and son in the middle of the Belgian forest? There’s no point and no time to explain.
I mentioned André Breton, and for my readers who may not be as familiar with his work, he is considered one of the founders of surrealism. Surrealism is a word often used to describe things like the presidency of the European Union, the coronavirus blockade and dream sequences in movies that are not surreal but rather representative. Anyway, I like surrealism. It allows you to explore the unconscious without having to adhere to a particular narrative, style or tone. When it’s done right, it’s beautiful. All my David Lynch fans know what I’m talking about, how weird and wonderful Eraserhead or Twin Peaks are.
The Hunt tries to achieve a kind of transcendental surrealist horror, but instead it becomes an awkward and confusing mess. There is no real common thread. The viewer is not given any information about these numbers to understand what is and is not the case. The fabric of the story is not a quilt of different textures, but is hastily glued together with warm felt, glitter and string, assembled at the last minute in an art exhibition. We’re supposed to think it’s genius because it makes no sense and represents the patriarchy, but Hunted doesn’t use tricks to make us believe that.
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