HUNTED (Fantasia Fest 2020)

HUNTED was directed by Vincent Paronnaud (co-director of the beautiful PERSEPOLIS), and it made it’s debut screening at Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 on Friday August 21, 2020, and I was so very excited and grateful to check out the live screening. HUNTED promises a twisted fairy tale, combined with “snuff” elements, and survival horror, and after watching the film, I have to say that I don’t necessarily know that HUNTED was able to hit its original mark.

HUNTED tells the story of Eve (Lucie Debay), a beautiful French blonde who is supervising a construction project. She seems to be at odds with her boyfriend Alex and she abandons her hotel and her phone to don her little-Red-Riding hood coat and hit up a local club. A sleazy bar patron propositions her, and is scared off by a man (Arieh Worthalter) who drinks and dances with her before all too quickly loading her into his car and driving off, quickly dropping his white knight airs for something a little bit more tarnished and sinister. She is let out of the car and heads to a gas station where the man follows her, forcibly kidnaps her and drives her out into the wilderness with his as per the film’s description “dummy” (read clearly mentally handicapped) friend. It’s clear that the pair are engaged in something nefarious – and Eve soon figures this out while trapped in the trunk of a car, when she comes across a purse that is not hers as well as an iPhone clearly belonging to a woman. It’s here that we get the “snuff” elements of the film, as it’s demonstrated that the bumbling pair of criminals, who crash their car while engaged in some homo-erotic kissing for ultimately no reason, are also filming “snuff films”, though this is never really elaborated on which became a frustration point for me.
I’m all for accepting that criminals don’t always have grand reasons for doing what they do, but for a film that sets itself up with “snuff elements”, the punch is pulled far too early on this one, and never really answers the many questions I had.

Eve escapes her captors and takes them on a cat and mouse game through the woods, sometimes gaining the upper hand, sometimes being seemingly beaten almost to an inch of her life, before artfully making her escape. The two criminals make chase of Eve, and when the “dummy” becomes dead weight, he is quickly dispatched by his partner who continues to pursue Eve through the dark and foreboding wilderness. As Eve’s rage begins to boil over, she gets hit with a paintball gun, smearing her face with blue-paint reminiscent of William Wallace and she goes from shrinking violet drinking Mojitos in a tacky red parka to Viking berserker quite literally foaming at the mouth and panting like a wild animal as she seeks revenge on the man who stripped her of her power and abused her. She becomes the aggressor and huffing and puffing hunts down the man before unceremoniously and unsatisfyingly choking him to death.

Ultimately, I felt like HUNTED wanted to set itself up like rape-revenge films like the absolutely magnificent REVENGE, but failed in that it never really quite gave us either a convincing villain or a convincing victim. The two snuff film makers remind me too much of Home Alone’s wet bandits – they’re bumbling almost to the point of ineptitude, and I was amazed they’d been able to catch and dispatch any victims, as Eve escapes them rather easily. Further to the point – Eve, is never really set up to be a victim – she is a powerful woman from her very beginnings – she’s a supervisor in a man’s world, and while she gets kind of talked to rudely, she is by no means a wallflower. Her transformation from modern woman to paintball William Wallace is – not great? The overacted panting and huffing and puffing, where she’s almost slavering at the mouth comes off as goofy and silly rather than powerful. And while I never thought I’d be asking to have more “snuff elements” explored in a movie – I am absolutely asking that. I felt like it was a tease to hint that these two moron criminals are making snuff films, while never really touching on why. Are they being made to be sold? Is this just for kicks? There’s not even any lines of throwaway exposition that address it, which makes it seem.. tacked on, rather than intentional. But I suppose I like my revenge served cold and brutal rather than slapstick.

Ultimately, HUNTED just wasn’t the film for me. It has been picked up by Shudder and I have a feeling it will do well there. For me, however, it was very middle of the road – it combined strong visual elements and was technically well made, I just feel like it pulled back on the punches, and just when it seemed to be coming around to making some kind of point about the “patriarchy”, it stumbled.

DIAG RATING 3/6 – middle of the road slasher revenge flick.

You can check out more of our Fantasia coverage here:

The Drunk in a Graveyard guide to the TEN FILMS we are most psyched about at Fantasia Fest 2020.

Coverage of Brea Grant’s 12 HOUR SHIFT and Ryan Spindell’s THE MORTUARY COLLECTION can be found on our latest podcast episode, and coverage of Amelia Moses’s BLEED WITH ME, 上田慎一郎 Shinichiro Ueda’s SPECIAL ACTORS, Neil Marshall’s THE RECKONING, short film DOPPELBÅNGER here, as well as our podcast episode on Justin McConnell’s documentary Clapboard Jungle here. And be sure to stay tuned for more coverage coming up soon, and follow our social media to keep up!

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