In Shudder’s Original Film Hunted, a modern re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, a young woman is chased through the forest by two men who want to film her every scream.
Hunted’s story is every bit as familiar as its title would suggest and the comparisons to the classic children’s fable come to a grinding halt when Eve (Lucie Debay) puts on a red jacket. Don’t be fooled by the film’s promise of something unique and twisted, because Hunted is just another woman-pursued-by-men tale that offers very little in terms of fear or creativity. Just as Eve’s cries in the forest go unheard, Hunted will go unnoticed in a genre that already brims with similar stories of stalking, screaming and survival.
Hunted wasn’t always this tiresome and forgettable; the film’s intriguing beginning ignited a promise of something special. Told through beautifully tragic animation, a woman tells her son a dramatic story of 100 men who slowly starve to death on a journey to liberate Jerusalem. The few survivors discover a young woman who marks the answer to their hunger, but the woman is saved by the forest itself, nicely setting up the events for Eve’s eventual terror in the same area. Unfortunately, what ultimately ensues is long-winded and lacking in credibility. Hunted doesn’t manage to blend its elements of fantasy and reality in a way that should be exciting for its viewers. Instead, it succumbs to cliché and nonsense, forgetting its early moments of inventiveness and replacing them with a lacklustre 80 minutes of predatory men terrorising a young woman.
Unfortunately, it is this lack of connection to Eve that puts the final nail in this film’s already crumbling coffin. We aren’t given much of an introduction to her character, which creates a disconnection between her and the audience. The only reason we root for Eve is because we understand that the men are a couple of nasty bastards. If more time was dedicated to setting-up and developing Eve’s character, rather than focusing on the strange relationship between The Guy (Arieh Worthalter) and his Accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien), perhaps we would have felt more connected to Eve and the horrors she endures.
Hunted often feels melodramatic, and not to downplay what’s happening to Eve because it’s horrible, but there’s an element of silliness that prevents the film from being taken too seriously. It tries to be an anti-Evil Dead, where the woods are our friend, but it never manages to convince us that anything particularly fantastical is going on. A pig wanders into the road in one of the film’s most head-scratching moments and I think I saw some trees warn Eve that she’s being gained on, but that’s as far nature’s helping hand goes here. I’m sure there is a commentary on our conflicted relationship with nature here, but sadly, its buried in Hunted’s decision to focus on superficial thrills.
Films like this are remembered for their emotional impact and, Hunted doesn’t manage to shatter its audience like it should. Films like Eden Lake leave a lasting impression on their viewers; making them feel the pain of their characters and striking them in the chest with the film’s unshakeable terror. However, Hunted is painfully disappointing and forgettable, failing to deliver a survival thriller that is hard-hitting or exciting.
Director: Vincent Paronnaud
Stars: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O’Brien
Runtime: 87 minutes
Country: Belgium, France