Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Horror Movie Review. Today we are taking a look at Shudder Original Hunted. Directed by Vincent Paronnaud, Hunted is a Belgian–French–Irish horror collaboration. This seems like a bit of a strange group of countries to see teaming up. Naturally, Belgium and France have plenty in common. But throwing Ireland into the mix? I would love to know the backstory of how this film came about. Anyways, the result is a bit of a strange movie with a multi-national cast and a mix of fake accents.
Hunted follows the story of a woman who heads out for a quiet drink. Only to be taken captive by a pair of sinister men. Acting as something of a cautionary tale. Themes of survival, action, revenge and comedy take centre stage. This is a film that throws together a number of disparate styles. Resulting in, what feels like, a bit of a messy and confused production. About as average as horror can get. There is very little to recommend Hunted. Still, it is worth checking out if you are in the mood for something different. Let’s take a look.
Hunted follows the story of French woman Eve. Working for a construction company. She is spending some time away from home, close to the construction site. Feeling bored one night, she heads out to a local bar. While there, she is accosted by an annoying man aiming to strike it lucky. Eve is relieved when another man comes to her aid. Spending the evening drinking with the man. It isn’t long before the pair are leaving the bar together. A decision Eve will quickly come to regret.
So this is pretty standard fare as far as revenge horror goes. Vulnerable woman in a strange city meets a, seemingly, nice guy. Guy turns out to not be so nice. Woman is kidnapped and has to fight for her life. Taking place, for the most part, in a large forest. Eve is pursued over a number of days. She has to survive the hostile landscape, as well as escape from the crazed lunatics. It’s all very familiar stuff. Especially to fans of revenge movies like the fantastic I Spit On Your Grave and the like.
The place in which Hunted, somewhat, separates itself, however. Is in its meshing of contrasting styles. This is a movie of multiple personalities. At times it feels like survival horror. At other times it is far closer to an action film. There are moments where the comedy takes over. Only to give way to more action and themes of revenge. It’s a bit strange and never really feels particularly comfortable in its own skin.
Utilising a ferocious woman. Unwilling to give up to portray its message of danger hiding in plain sight. This is a movie that feels like it goes a long way to tell a short story. Frequently lost in the reeds of repetitive action movie tropes. There are many parts of Hunted that feel extremely padded. Still, it’s hard not to find at least a little to like here. Movies featuring bad ass women are always easy to enjoy. The problem, however, is that the film never manages to extend past that.
As mentioned earlier. Hunted isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. From the opening scenes depicting folk tales told by a mother at a campsite. Right up until later scenes keen to make the viewer laugh. This is a movie that feels incredibly disconnected and a bit shallow. Almost as if directed by a few different people. Although fairly interesting. The aforementioned feeling of disconnection can leave you feeling a bit off base.
Still, the folk tale witnessed in the earlier scenes of the movie. Set the basis for the events that are to follow. Hunted is a fairy tale made true. Eve’s red coat is more than just a poor fashion choice for hiding in the woods. It is an allegory as obvious as a punch in the groin. The story of a wolf girl who fights back against an evil man. Aided by the forest and the animals around her. It’s an interesting premise but, unfortunately, one that the movie never really lives up to. It’s difficult to not feel like this is a fresh coat of paint on a very old, worn out, type of horror.
Spending almost no time developing characters or backstory. Hunted places little focus on establishing the scene. Eve meets a guy, they hook up, things go wrong. It’s all pretty simple stuff and eager to move aside. The action steps in almost immediately. As a fortuitous accident offers Eve an opportunity to escape. The next hour or so is spent wandering around the forest. This is where the problems start, though. Eve is a fairly capable person. In good condition and willing to take risks. She proves to be more than a handful for her unsuspecting captors.
Despite this, Eve, somehow, manages to repeatedly bump into our maniacal antagonists.. She always finds herself back in danger with little effort on the bad guy’s part. This quickly removes any real element of suspense. There is no reason to feel concerned for Eve. You know she is going to walk herself right into the antagonist’s line of sight. Prompting another tussle and another bout of shouting and running.
It gets old very fast and robs the movie of any sense of tension. The idea of pursuit evaporates almost instantly. Why pursue when you can just sit and wait? It’s dull and laborious stuff with little reason to invest. It doesn’t help that each of the sequences feels so drawn out. This really speaks to the lack of innovation present in Hunted. It’s all so familiar and all rather boring.
Around two thirds of the way in the movie takes something of a turn. Elements of comedy present themselves and the action element becomes more balanced. The hunter, hunted theme gives way to something a tiny bit more nuanced. We see a little more growth from our protagonist. And the movie’s earlier fairy tale premise takes centre stage. Still, its impossible to shake that feeling of familiarity. This is, simply, a movie that lacks in ingenuity. It’s all been done before and there is nothing to separate Hunted from its peers.
It offers virtually no surprises. The action sequences don’t stand out. And even the fairly tale element feels like an afterthought. Eve is not your ordinary horror movie victim which is nice. But that is simply not enough to make the movie stand out. Added to that, some of the later scenes can feel a little ridiculous.
As Eve runs around screaming with her hair messed up and blue paint on her face. Its hard not to be reminded of the image of Celtic warriors of old. In a low budget action horror movie set in the modern day. It feels strangely out of place. Much like many of the random exotic animals seen in the woods in Hunted. It’s as if they went to a pet shop and said “one of everything, please”. I’m fairly sure giant African Millipedes don’t spend much time in European woodlands.
Acting is a bit of a weird issue here. This is a Belgian, French, Irish collaboration. Which really begs the question why are so many people faking American accents. I thought Choose or Die was bad but this takes the biscuit. As far as I can gather, we are supposed to be somewhere in Europe. Many of the characters, however, are, seemingly, American. Eve, played by Belgian actress Lucie Debay, is French which is fine. She does a decent job but spends most of her time grunting and screaming maniacally.
Our main bad guy, however, played by Arieh Worthalter is supposed to be from the US. Well, at least I think he is. He alternates between numerous different regional American and European accents throughout the film. Sometimes sounding French, sometimes sounding like he is from Boston. Sometimes from the Bronx. It is seriously off putting and really undermines his performance. The fact that his character is written as something of a comic book caricature doesn’t help. He is seriously over the top.
Cinematography is fine, this is a nicely shot movie with a rich palette. I would have preferred a 1.66:1 aspect ratio given the location. The standard 1.85:1 widescreen shot robs the location of verticality. Stretching things out and feeling a little bit plain. Still, things look fine for the most part. Luckily there aren’t too many night time scenes so you won’t have to strain your eyes too much. The opening fairy tale scenes are somewhat interesting. They don’t work nearly as well as similar scenes in other movies, though. They are far less interesting and artistic.
Direction is a real mixed bag. Slightly abstract in its nature. The presentation here can be rather off putting. Although quick to get into the action. There is a sense of whiplash as the movie changes pace. Suddenly shifting the timeline around without much indication. Shots are not set up in such a way as to create scares or suspense. Everything is presented in a bland manner with no view to surprise. Tall, thick trees usually afford opportunities for decent, tense, cat and mouse scenes. That just isn’t the case here.
Pacing is okay though there is a distinct feeling that this is a short movie stretched out. Much of the events are fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Its only the last 20 minutes that actually manage to tell the story the movie wants to tell. Again, this speaks to the bigger issue with Hunted. It is a film lacking in ideas. It doesn’t do anything new or anything particularly well. Hunted adds nothing to the revenge horror genre. It is simply a rinse repeat of so many movies that came before it.
Hunted is a very by the numbers survival/revenge horror movie. Offering a folk tale based plot as a promise of something intriguing. Hunted never really manages to live up to its potential. This is, simply, another revenge horror movie wearing slightly different clothing. A strong performance by Lucie Debay as a woman unwilling to quit. And a entertaining, if not over the top, bad guy. Help to keep things somewhat interesting. It never really amounts to anything, though, and the movie is quick to play to type. There is nothing new here. It's plain, straight forward, revenge horror. Still, if that is all you are looking for. You may have a really great time. For everyone else. Feel free to put Hunted on your "to watch" list.. Just not near the top.