Released: 14th January
Seen: 19th January
If you were to make a list of locations that horror movies take place in, The Woods would probably be somewhere near the top of that list. Something about being in the great outdoors, surrounded by trees and being far away from modern civilisation lends itself well to a horror scenario. Films like Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead and Friday the 13th have all shown that surrounding a bunch of young people by a seemingly endless amount of trees and leaving them to deal with some form of serial killer can create a terrifying ordeal… you can also have films like Hunted, that work on some level but not as many as it should.
Hunted is a very very loose retelling of the Red Riding Hood tale, something the film wants to remind you of by having our main character Eve (Lucie Debay) wear a red jacket for the entire runtime even though it makes her the most visible thing in the forest. Eve is just going for a night out when she eventually gets kidnapped by a random psychopath with no real name (Arieh Worthalter) and his accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien).
The two of them kidnap Eve and take her deep into a forest with the intent of raping and killing her because that’s what random psychopaths do. On the way they end up getting into a car wreck which lets Eve escape, beginning a cat and mouse style chase between the psychopath and his victim… also, I guess Eve can control wildlife in some way but that’s a minor detail.
The entire film plays out like the last 15 minutes of any slasher film if you stretched it out to feature-length. Anyone who is a fan of slashers knows that the last bit of a slasher film is when the final girl goes from running away from the killer to trying to take him down. It’s usually the most thrilling and cathartic moment of the movie where a character gains their strength and takes down the bad guy.
Hunted does that for about 70 minutes and therein lies the major problem, when you stretch out something that normally takes 15 minutes and make it last for almost 5 times as long it ends up making the movie feel slow and makes it somewhat of a boring sit.
For most of the runtime, we’re either watching our final girl run through the forest or we’re with our psychopath as he either assaults his accomplice or does some murder to people who he finds in the forest. The scenes with the psychopathic killer are certainly the most interesting because they’re the ones where the most interesting things happen. He also does have some gloriously demented moments that make me wish I liked this film more, a scene involving duct tape is one of the more cruel and disturbing sequences I’ve seen in a while and if the film had more of that I’d be a lot more positive about this film.
Unfortunately, large parts of Hunted feel like we’re just killing time, stretching to feature-length with a lot of running and added sequences. When you read the description of the film you imagine something along the lines of the original I Spit On Your Grave, a film that (while a hard sit) had the decency to be energetic and show the lead female character being a badass who was able to get every one of her attackers.
This film doesn’t have that, in fact, this film’s lead only really manages to get the upper hand on the bad guy in the last few minutes and almost relies on a combination of clumsiness, animals and strangers to help get her out of a jam. There’s one character who is basically there to shoot a bow and arrow, hit the psychopath once and then never be seen again.
It does help a lot that Hunted is visually impressive, even though it does make no sense why Eve would keep that red jacket on the entire time (except that she’s Red Riding Hood and we need the visual reminder) it does create some good imagery. The final scene takes place in a pure white house and allows for some good high contrasting images. There is a ton of skill here with some of these visuals and I want to enjoy them but it’s hard to enjoy the visuals when I can’t really engage with the film.
Hunted is, at best, fine. It has a solid idea but cannot maintain interest for the entire runtime. While there are some interesting visuals and a few grisly kills that’ll get a good jolt out of the audience, it’s the inability to fill its 90-minute runtime with enough interesting content that is this film’s downfall.