Hunted isn’t a bad film, but the genre aficionados who are likely to seek it out won’t find much genre styling to sustain them.
Vincent Paronnaud’s new horror-thriller Hunted opens with a campfire tale brought to life using a gorgeous animation style that combines black, blocky cut-outs and a background of ethereal gold. The message is bluntly stated: “The company of wolves is better than that of man.” Paronnaud then spends the remaining 86 minutes proving that point, but unfortunately forgets to add anything in the way of depth or insight, leaving the viewer to wonder what is to be gained from enduring his rather heinous take on Little Red Riding Hood. A businesswoman in a bright red coat, Eve (Lucie Debay), ends up drunkenly going home with the wrong man (Arieh Worthalter), and is forced to fight for her life in the woods after escaping his clutches. What follows is a monotonous foot chase in which Eve endures repeated close calls with her big bad wolf, but always escapes just in the nick of time. This ultimately leads to a showdown in a suburban model home that could be a commentary on deforestation and urban sprawl, but honestly, who knows.
As the co-director of both Persepolis and Chicken with Plums, it seems fair to at least expect Paronnaud to deliver visually, but aside from that aforementioned opening and a moment involving a car, a kiss, and a wild boar — it’s as bonkers as it sounds — memorable imagery is sparse. Even as a tale of female empowerment, Hunted fails miserably, as Paronnaud is far more interested in spending time with his big baddie than the woman at its center, who is instead reduced to a series of grunts and wails. The film also keeps hinting that the woods will ultimately fight back in the young woman’s defense, Long Weekend-style, but aside from a couple of camping survivalists and an angry bird, nothing ever comes of it. There’s really only one expectation that Paronnaud successfully upends: he constructs his film in the familiar horror shape of a rape-revenge tale even as rape doesn’t feature, which is both a welcome bit of restraint and a nifty genre modification, but it simply isn’t enough — and no, a paintball game that suddenly turns Eve into a warpaint-clad William Wallace will not suffice. Perhaps more would be forgiven if Paronnaud had delivered on the terror front, but aside from a few moments of body horror, there isn’t much here to sustain the average genre fan. Hunted is watchable, but not much else. The victim at the heart of its story deserves to be treated as more than a lazy prop.
You can stream Vincent Paronnaud’s Hunted on Shudder beginning on January 14.
Originally published as part of Nightstream 2020 — Dispatch 2.