Packed with dread and gore, Hunted makes up for what it lacks in characterisation with a visually stunning cat-and-mouse plot.
For the uninitiated, Shudder is an online streaming service that specialises in horror and thriller film and TV. Its most recent original movie is Hunted, a gory and nail-biting journey through the woods that makes great use of colour and lighting to enhance its mood.
In an unnamed European town, Eve (Lucie Debay) is on a work trip and enjoying a night in a bar when she is abducted by a violent and sexually sadistic unnamed man (Arieh Worthalter). Managing to escape after the car crashes in the middle of the woods, Eve flees only to find herself relentlessly pursued. With a misogynistic psychopath on her heels, she has only her wits and the natural wilderness to protect her. And, as it turns out, all the woodland creatures surrounding them.
That last point might make more sense if I explain that Hunted is clearly a re-imagined fairytale. The film literally begins by re-telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood (using some stunning puppetry to do so), with the wolves now coming to the aid of the young girl against the violence of man. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie as dogs, snakes, birds and deer come to help Eve, who is fittingly clad in a red hoodie—in case you missed the analogy.
Speaking of colour, one of the film’s main strengths is its use of colour and lighting to craft stunning and striking visuals. For the majority of the film, it appears that natural light in both day and night scenes is used, grounding the horror of the film in a level of brutal reality. As a result, the background blacks, blues and greys of the forest make the bolder colours pop. It’s certainly one of the more pleasant things to look at in a film that is otherwise filled with brutal imagery. The violence bestowed upon multiple characters by the villain forces one to look away, and the use of weapons, blood and physical violence serve as the film’s main source of horror. How that appeals to you will depend on your enjoyment of that type of horror, but it is done well, with taut levels of tension and dread.
If you notice that this review has been very light on talking about characterisation, that’s because there really isn’t any. Both Eve and the man get initial introductions as characters, but quickly fall into roles (though not fixed roles) of hunter and hunted. The man is certainly despicable enough that the viewer is naturally aligned against him. However, it may have been nice to get a stronger idea of Eve’s character; her journey and struggle is so intense that you become invested in her survival. Despite the characters’ lack of contextualisation, the conflict itself is engaging as it’s never clear who will emerge victorious, even right until the end.
Hunted is a strong example of a simple narrative done well. The conflict and stakes are clear throughout, with gruesome moments of violence and creative visuals used to maintain the audience’s interest. There are some jumping-the shark-moments that occasionally stand out, but all in all, it’s a contained thrill ride. If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.
Hunted is available to watch now on Shudder.
Words by Mischa Alexander
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