★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Vincent Parannoud
What in the world happens when filmmakers run out of ideas? Well, it’s rather simple. A) In most cases they go back to the well, B) there’s always a sequel, or prequel, or a reboot, C) the idea is reimagined through the lens of an out of copyright idea, story, or myth, or D) they just run out of ideas. Sadly, for 2020’s The Hunted, the answer is D.
Directed by Vincent Paronnoud, The Hunted opens with a well shot, fascinating piece of lore, that gives the audience a heavy dose of (perceived) foreshadowing that will surely come to play later in the film. It sort of does, but mostly doesn’t. The tale goes something like this…religious zealots follow a religious nut out in to woods and eventually a female member of the party is cast out and declared a witch. As the group’s pariah she quickly acquaints herself with all of nature’s offerings and learns to harness its ecological powers. Imagine Aquaman in the woods but with a very tepid Little Red Riding Hood allegory.
While the initial tale is an interesting and well-conceived piece of exposition, it’s mostly left on the table, and only lightly, reviewed later the film. The film really follows a young architect, Eve (Lucie Debay) in the middle of a hurried job trying to balance the wants and needs of a budding romance against her career. Bored and frustrated with her current spate in life she seeks out an evening at a Euro disco. Dressed all in red (see Little Red Riding Hood) she meets up with a smarmy but seemingly well meaning, but unnamed, wolf-like character (Christian Bronchart). A couple drinks, a cigarette or two, and a pile of smooching later, the two find themselves in a car piloted by the “Wolf’s” accomplice who’s also unnamed.
It becomes increasingly clear that Eve isn’t going home and that there’s a good chance she’s now a part of a snuff film abduction happening. The “Wolf” quickly becomes extra sinister, hyper-violent, and unbearably condescending in a way that only archetype super killers can. On the way through the woods the “Wolf” insists that his accomplice show him his loyalty and plant a big old kiss on him. Unaware that a wild boar is simultaneously crossing the road (…there maybe be a mixed metaphor involving the Big Bad Wolf, but that’s for you to interpret), the car crashes and Eve, a little banged up and still slightly restrained, is able to escape.
What ensues is a cat/mouse or Wolf/Riding Hood chase through the woods. Very little new or inventive unfolds. Fight/escape and fight/escape. Rinse and repeat. The audience becomes rather aware that the “Wolf” will die, Riding Hood will have her revenge, and the woods will magically save her. One can only assume the spiritual nature of the woods calls back to the earlier exposition, but in the end it doesn’t really matter if these things are connected or not. The Little Red Riding Hood homage is thin, the revenge story is rote, and most importantly, the Eve character is so undeveloped that the audience is never really invested in her survival or her ability to carry out her revenge.
If it’s revenge you’re after truck on over to your local video store and rent a copy of They Call Her One Eye. You’ll be satisfied and you’ll get to see what real cinematic revenge looks like.
The Hunted is probably a hard Rated R. This film is currently making its way through the festival circuit.