Eve (Lucie Debay), the only “Hunted” character with a name, is working on a construction project in an unnamed country, but she appears to be an outsider in the opening scenes. Work is not going well, and neither is a relationship. She decides to let off steam by going to a bar, where she gets fucked by a real asshole in a few minutes. A man (Arieh Worthalter) rushes her to the rescue and the two hit it off. They dance. They kiss. They go to the man’s car. And then things go very badly. An accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien) climbs into the front seat and starts driving. Eve is kidnapped and she has the worst night of her life.
After a truly surreal car crash involving a kiss and a boar, Eve finds herself freed from her captors and fleeing through the woods. The bulk of “Hunted” consists of the increasingly terrified Eve trying to escape capture again, but Paronnaud spends a truly unusual time with his villains instead of his hero. “Hunted” fails because of this POV. Paronnaud seems elated by his sociopath as he watches tapes of his previous crimes and thrusts his finger into his partner’s bloody wound in horror. Worthalter gives a messy and wide performance, which is good, but sometimes it feels like it’s from a different movie than the one Debay is in. She opts for cruel survivalism – everyone riffs on Quentin Tarantino or Eli Roth. It creates a disconnect in the storytelling that permeates the entire room, preventing it from finding a consistent tone. “Hunted” may sound better than a lot of “hunting horror” movies – a genre often characterized by cheap movies because it doesn’t require much more than a cast, camera, and woods nearby – but it doesn’t is ultimately not smarter. And even its clever twists, like with the opening story and allusions to Red Riding Hood, start to feel like a showcase for a shallow movie.
“Hunted” meets in its final scenes as he unleashes Eve on her executioner, provided catharsis usually reaches this genre. And Debay is solid throughout, selling off the credibility of Eve’s Nightmare in a way the rest of the film often struggles against. There is a better version of “Hunted” that leans more on its surreal flights of fantasy or settles into a cruel and tense realism. “Hunted” gets caught in the middle.
Now play on Shudder.