Always be wary of who you meet in a night club. It may turn out to be a great one-night stand, the love of your life or a sadistic serial killer, out for yet another victim. Check off answer “C” if you haven’t already guessed that Vincent Paronnaud’s feature film title, “Hunted”, was all about carnage as it made its world premiere at Fantasia Festival’s online edition.
A woman (Lucie Debay) meets a man (Arieh Worthalter) in a nightclub. They drunkenly kiss, but when he and his acolyte take her away in their car against her will, she panics, with reason. Nonetheless, they release her along the highway, mocking the terrified woman who ends up taking refuge in a convenience store. Unfortunately for her, the two men never left, following her into the store, kidnapping her, and embarking on a hellacious journey that none of them are about to forget.
Right from the get-go, co-writer and director Vincent Paronnaud throws a “Little Red Riding Hood” metaphor at us with our protagonist walking alone in the streets with a red sweater; hoodie and all. We also know that a wolf is lurking nearby.
Cue in Arieh Worthalter in the role of the antagonist. The French-born actor delivers a very entertaining performance of a charismatic, evil asshole that you love to hate. He is convincing as the knight in shining armor in the night club, aiding our lead actress, Lucie Debay (also born in France), against another obnoxious club goer. He is equally successful when his comforting smile morphs into an aggressive sneer.
Most of the film’s setting takes place in the wilderness as Worthalter’s character and his naïve acolyte stalk their female prey. Amidst the dense context of the backwoods are peculiar, metaphoric scenes involving wild animals in addition to some appealing, grimace-inducing make-up effects to accentuate violently gruesome injuries.
Unfortunately, that’s about all the positive remarks for this French-Belgian film. We never really have a chance to root for the main actress since the script doesn’t give the audience much of an opportunity to get attached to her and sympathize for her. Not the actress’ fault; just no true occasions from the script. The second half of the film seems like a random sequence of events clumsily put together. One of those scenes involves a paintball war raiding its way through the forest, around our hunter and hunted, resulting in the woman accidentally being face-painted and resembling Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” for the final act of the movie. Follow this up with a fight sequence through a prefabricated home in the midst of a potential buyers’ visit, sprinkle it with a little idiotic dialogue and you’ve got the correct cocktail for a disappointing 40 minutes after an exciting first 40 that overflowed with potential.
“Hunted” is an oddly thought-out (or not?) thriller with a great villain that seems to stumble and fall flat on its face halfway through the film. It brings nothing new to the survival/revenge genre and falls through the cracks of what could’ve been an original film, resulting in a score of 5/10.
Review written by SIMON ROTHER