The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - HUNTED | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - HUNTED

hunted review
A woman flees from her abductors in a sprawling forest.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud

Starring: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O'Brien

hunted poster

Director Vincent Paronnaud is best known to cinephiles for his collaborations with Marjane Satrapi on Persepolis and Chicken with Plums. His solo directorial debut, 2009's horror-comedy Villemolle 81, flew under the radar, and was made under the pseudonym of "Winshluss", making revenge thriller Hunted something of an unofficial directorial debut.

hunted review

Paronnaud's background in comics and animation comes to the fore in the film's opening sequence, an animated campfire tale that relates a parable of a woman accused of being a witch in Medieval times and summoning the help of the animals of the forest to come to her rescue. "The company of wolves is preferable to the company of men," the storyteller, a survivalist who will later return in the film's main plot, tells her young son.

We're then introduced to our heroine, the not so subtly named Eve (Lucie Debay), a young French woman working as a building contractor in an unnamed European country (I immediately twigged the setting as my native Ireland, even if the cars drive on the right in the film). After a stressful day at work, Eve ignores the phone calls from her nagging boyfriend and heads to a local bar. There she is seduced by a sinister yet handsome man (Arieh Worthalter), and before she can say "Your place or mine?" she's bound and gagged and bundled into the trunk of a car by the man and his nervous young accomplice (Ciaran O'Brien).

hunted review

We're brought back to the earlier parable when a wild boar emerges into the road, causing the car to crash, freeing Eve, who makes a dash into the forest. But what follows is a rather generic stalk and slash narrative, as Paronnaud seems to forget the premise of Eve having a connection with the flora and fauna of the forest. Eve is clad in a red hoody, an unsubtle fairy tale allusion, but otherwise Hunted has more in common with 1970s American grindhouse cinema than classic European folklore.

And to be fair, Paronnaud has created a largely successful throwback to that era of exploitation cinema. There's a genuine menace to his film's sleazy antagonist, with Worthalter owning the screen with his rabid malevolence. His unnamed villain is coded as American, which feels like an overdue response to the many thrillers of the 2000s that saw innocent Americans menaced by nasty Europeans. Paronnaud displays his visual storytelling chops with a bravura sequence involving a discarded Twix wrapper that skillfully establishes the geographical connection between hunter and prey.

hunted review

What's odd about Hunted is how it sidelines its heroine. We spend more time in the company of Worthalter than Debay, and the latter's transformation from fleeing victim to avenging angel comes out of nowhere, relying on a silly bit of business involving the intervention of paintballers, leaving Eve with blue paint smeared across her face like some Pictish warrior woman. After successfully sustaining the cat and mouse tension so well, Hunted collapses in its final act with a laughably over-the-top confrontation between Eve and her aggressor that recalls the bouts between Inspector Clouseau and Cato in the Pink Panther films.

 is on Shudder from January 14th.

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