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Hunted Review

January 15, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Lucie Debay Hunted
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Hunted Review  

Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud
Written by: Vincent Paronnaud & Léa Pernollet

Lucie Debay – Eve
Arieh Worthalter – The Guy
Ciaran O’Brien – The Accomplice
Simone Milsdochter – The Huntress
Ryan Brodie – Jeremy

Running Time: 87 minutes
Not Rated

It’s not exactly a new conceit to say that the best fairy tales are horror stories. Anyone who knows anything about the Brothers Grimm knows that those stories are much darker than what is usually known to children, and even fairly mainstream fairy tale films like Labyrinth, Sleepy Hollow, and Pan’s Labyrinth dig deep into creepy or outright horrifying elements.

That’s the landscape to which Hunted has arrived. The latest new film to arrive on Shudder, the Vincent Paronnaud-directed tale intentionally carries the trappings of a fairy tale – specifically Little Red Riding Hood in this case – into a story of a woman fighting for her life against a psychopathic man determined to add her to his disturbing collection.

Neither of these two elements are groundbreaking, of course. Little Red Riding Hood has been the basis for many films, and “women trying to survive the night with evil men chasing them down” is frankly the premise of most horror films of the last forty years. And yet, it’s the way in which Paronnaud blends these two ideas that allows this to stand on its own as an often intense, occasionally funny but always engaging survival thriller.

After a prologue in which a woman (Milsdochter) tells her son (Brodie) an old story about how a woman was saved from evil men by wolves in the woods they’re hunting in, the film shifts focus to Eve (Debay), a woman working in a foreign location managing a construction project. Frustrated with troubles at work and a text conversation with a friend, Eve shrugs on a conspicuous red jacket and heads out to a nightclub for to blow off steam.

There she is saved from an asshole by a white knight (Worthalter) who steps in and gets the creep to back off. Eve and the man hit it off and leaves with him, only for things to take a dark turn. After a series of terrifying events for her, she ends up in the woods with the man and his accomplice (O’Brien) chasing after her, turning her night (and more) into the proverbial cat-and-mouse game where she’ll have to figure out how to turn the tables if she wants to survive.
There’s a lot that’s familiar in this setup, of course. Eve’s being hunted down by psychopathic men is a chase that is echoed in any number of slasher films, for example. It’s Paronnaud’s talent at using the environment, evocatively captured by cinematographer Joachim Philippe, that gives the story its power. As Eve desperately tries to survive and evade capture, the forest itself seems to come alive to help her at times, which infuses the film with a sort of mythic feel worthy of its folklore inspirations.

It also falls upon Debay, who gives an outstanding performance as Eve. She’s a thoroughly urban character who over the course of the film becomes pushed more and more to the brink, being transformed into a feral survivor. Debay gets deep within the character and finds a primal warrior inside. It’s stellar work that the film would have fallen apart without having.

Paronnaud also spends a pretty fair amount of time with his primary villain as well, and Worthalter leans into the character’s threatening and even pathetic elements. This is not the man’s story; he doesn’t even get a name. But we learn enough that the actor is able to paint a broad but effective picture of who he is, enough that he presents a formidable challenge to Eve. O’Brien has less to do but turns in sufficient work so as to not fall flat, and there’s not a lot to the remaining characters but they fill their roles well.

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the film ultimately builds to a final climax between Eve and her tormentor, and Paronnaud changes up the setting once more for an all-out brawl. It’s where the film nearly goes off the rails, pushing itself over the top for a sustained period of time. But Debay and Worthalter are game for the proceedings and keep things barreling along. The non-stop battle may lose some audiences as it starts to become all too much, but for those who can keep with it the experience will be a rewarding one.

Hunted is now available on Shudder in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Vincent Paronnaud's new film Hunted is a lean, mean survival thriller centered by remarkable use of its environment and a knockout performance by Lucie Debay. The Red Riding Hood-meets-Most Dangerous Game vibe created by Paronnaud allows him to get deep under the skin of his two main characters with violent results. While the third act nearly loses itself in sustained battle, it holds on well enough to become a very and intense viewing experience and gives Shudder a very solid start to 2021.

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Hunted, Jeremy Thomas