Thursday, October 04, 2012


Today's post is hitting the blog a little late but since this review comes to us from the Pacific Northwest we'll just chock it up to the three-hour time difference. When it comes to most-dangerous-game-themed cinema I don't even think twice about who gets to check it out. Our resident Beer Snob, futbal expert and hunting humans buff Bryan Senn is back with a look at THE HUNT, another entry in this ever-expanding sub-genre (Bryan previously reviewed the clown-themed CLOWN HUNT). Want to check out more of Bryan's informed and often funny takes on genre cinema? Be sure to order your copy of ER #51 for his cover feature, AN ANGEL FOR SATAN: THE GOTHIC EUROHORRORS OF BARBARA STEELE.

Riding the wave of New Millennium visceral French horror-in the vein of such films as HIGH TENSION (2003), FRONTIERS (2007), INSIDE (2007) and MARTYRS (2008), THE HUNT offers the gruesome thrills and arresting visuals typical of this Gallic subset.  Unfortunately, it fails to bring to the characters the emotional intensity found in the best of them (such as HIGH TENSION and MARTYRS).

Tabloid reporter Alex (Jellali Mouina) is on the skids, suffering from writer's block and dipping below even his rock-bottom standards by concocting bestiality stories about women who "love" dogs.  When his editor gives him one week to come up with something better (preferably something with lots of violence), Alex turns to his  dominatrix girlfriend (Sarah Lucide) for a lead.  She directs him to the house of a rich and powerful client, where Alex breaks in and runs across a mysterious bag containing money, weapons, and a cell phone that rings to deliver cryptic instructions.  Following said instructions, Alex ends up at a chateau in the deep woods as part of a group of masked hunters, wealthy individuals who wager large sums of money by placing a pile of cash in small lockboxes.  Then begins a human hunt in which these hunters track down and kill (with bow and arrow) kidnapped homeless victims to whom the lockboxes have been handcuffed.  In making a kill, the hunter wins the wager and claims the cash prize.  Of course, nothing says the hunters can't try and take the money from their compatriots ("The only rule is," says the aged leader of this secret cabal, "there are no rules") by any means possible, including murder.  During the hunt, Alex must face down several of the killers and then try to make his escape.

While striking to look at – sometimes too much so, as the camerawork (full of hand-held shots, low angles, deep focus, arty dissolves, and even slow-motion) often draws attention to itself, and the technique becomes a little too precious for its own good (e.g., running the film backwards as Alex flashes back to his first glimpse of bloody violence, or cutting from a violent kill to a bee struggling on the ground, its wings too wet with blood to function) – THE HUNT lacks an emotional center.  The faceless hunters are interchangeable-almost literally, as they're dressed in identical camouflage uniforms and black hoods, and never utter a word-while the victims are clothed in identical cheap suits and never utter a word either (for the gruesome reason that their tongues have been cut out).  Consequently, the only singular presence upon which the viewer can focus is Alex himself, but he's merely a sleazy opportunist with no obvious redeeming features (he even mercilessly manipulates his reluctant girlfriend to further his own disagreeable ends).

It's never made clear to what extent the various hunters are motivated by the hunt itself, the money, or simple sadism, leaving the central concept woefully unexplored.  Consequently, the hunt becomes no more than exploitative spectacle, as we know little of, and care less about, any of the characters.  And while said spectacle is well-shot and offers a few startling moments (such as when an arrow suddenly slams into the throat of a victim, resulting in a surprising, bloody spray), it can't fully sustain interest even over the course of the film's brief 74-minute running time.  It's too bad that cinematographer-turned-director Thomas Szczepanski takes far less care with his characters and story than with his visuals.

Shot in 2010, THE HUNT premiered at the Razor Reel Film Festival in Bruges, Belgium, before being subtitled and released on video in the U.S. and Canada in July 2012. – Bryan Senn

THE HUNT is available from Amazon.

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