Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hunted Review: A Brutal, Raw Horror Fairy Tale

Release date: January 14, 2020
Running time: 95 minutes
Starring: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O'Brien 
Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud
Written by: Vincent 
Paronnaud and Léa Pernollet

A SHUDDER ORIGINAL.  What started as a flirtatious encounter at a bar turns into a life-or-death struggle as Eve becomes the unknowing target of a misogynistic plot against her. Forced to flee as two men pursue her through the forest, she’s pushed to her extremes while fighting to survive—but survival isn’t enough for Eve. She will have revenge. A modern and radical take on the Little Red Riding Hood fable, Hunted is an exhilarating, transcendent, and frequently brutal survival tale that elevates itself with the power of myth and magic, while still holding an exacting mirror to present-day society. 

You can tell from the start that Director Vincent Paronnaud has a comic background as the introduction features an animated style that is really fun to see.  It is part live action and part hand drawn animation that instantly tells the audience this film is going to have aspects of fairy tales and aspects of modern movies.  And the film carries that forward through the movie as there is some fairy tale inspired symbolism throughout.  For example, Eve is wearing a striking red jacket that evokes Little Red Riding Hood.  And in fitting nature, the other main character is more of a big bad wolf.  Arieh Worthalter is a disturbing antagonist through and through.  It is fitting that he looked similar to Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker as his character was unpredictable, maniacal, ruthless, and occasionally personable.  He was so disturbing because you never quite knew what he was going to do.  And Lucie Debay as Eve was sometime to behold.  She goes through an insane ordeal in this film and her character becomes both broken and stronger throughout.

As you would expect from a movie about hunting, the film has a really creepy setup as the predator and the prey are established.  The film has a longer setup than I expected, but it is a good way to lay the groundwork for this story and also keeps you guessing what will happen next.  And once things get going, the film becomes unpredictable and brutal.  There are some intensely violent scenes that were tough to watch.  There were also some scenes of sexual assault that fit with the story, but were also difficult to stomach.  And the visuals aren't the only thing that is intense and tough to watch, the dialogue can also get rough to match some of the brutality on screen.

And in order to make the hunting scenes work, the filmmakers did a great job with the camerawork, giving the pursuit scenes a sense of motion and velocity.  You get the sense that you are running for your life, as that is what is evoked on screen.  The whole film has a raw, wild aspect to it that fits with the hunting mentality.  And also going with the fairy tale themes, there are some scenes towards that end that do feel right from a fairy tale.  The story of the movie builds and builds, with a definite progression to a climactic final confrontation.  However, although I did find the antagonist compelling he sometimes just seems too driven without much explanation.  His interests and motivations are explored, but not in a ton of depth.  And also, although the film is brutal, some of the deaths and fights are more out of a traditional horror movie than something that is not supernatural.  And finally, some interesting characters and themes are only touched on, and come in and out of the film far too quickly. 

Hunted's brutal, raw style and intense, sometimes disturbing performances make for a decidedly different horror fairy tale. 

Rent it.

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Hunted is available to stream on Shudder starting January 14, 2021. 

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