Published Jan 18, 2021Hunted, a Belgian-French-Irish production, is the latest in a long line of survival horror films that focus on a woman fighting back against sociopathic kidnappers. In an effective animated prologue, this one attempts to elevate these sorts of tales to the level of folklore. With talk of hungry wolves, it's no accident that Eve (Lucie Debay) wears a red coat. Beyond this conceit though, the movie fails to come together due to its tonal whiplash.
Despite the potential in the Little Red Riding Hood allusions, director Vincent Paronnaud seems more interested in the crueller of the two kidnappers (Arieh Worthalter). His poking a finger into his accomplice's wound or watching his own snuff films get far more attention than Eve's fight for survival to the point that, for a good stretch in the middle, the film itself seems bored with Eve whenever it's forced to check in with her. It's not that Worthalter does a bad job, but that on occasion he seems to come from a different movie. Worse still, the scenes with her kidnappers don't serve to reveal all that much other than, yeah, these guys are messed up.
Given that these sort of films are often made on the cheap, Hunted looks a lot better than most of its brethren. But its inability to settle or choose between its grindhouse influences and its more high-minded mythic aspirations means it doesn't totally succeed in either one.
Debay works with what she has, mostly using body language to convey her turn from prey to predator. But she's underserved by the shifted focus as well as a truly dumb decision before the horror begins (leaving her phone at home prior to going to the bar). When the catharsis comes, she gives as good as any other movie heroine who decides to fight back, but by then it's too little too late. (Shudder)