REVIEW: ‘Hunted’ is Stressful From Start to Finish

Reading Time: 4 minutes
hunted
Content Warning: Hunted and this review mention sexual assault

Fairytales serve a grim buffet for horror directors and writers. While some retell the story in predictable ways but with more blood thrown in, others use the themes of the fairytale to connect to larger elements of society. Hunted, the live-action, English-language solo directorial debut for Vincent Paronnaud, is the latter. Co-written by Paronnaud alongside Léa Pernollet, this Shudder Original makes for a good dual feature with Revenge, if you can stomach it.

What started as a flirtatious encounter at a bar turns into a life-or-death struggle as Eve becomes the unknowing target of a misogynistic plot against her. Forced to flee as two men pursue her through the forest, she’s pushed to her extremes while fighting to survive—but survival isn’t enough for Eve (Lucie Debay). She will have revenge. A modern and radical take on the Little Red Riding Hood fable, Hunted is an exhilarating, transcendent, and frequently brutal survival tale that elevates itself with the power of myth and magic, while still holding an exacting mirror to present-day society.

While you can’t call Hunted a rape-revenge film because Eve is not raped, it lives in the same catharsis those films try to offer audiences. Those chasing her are rapists, she was just lucky enough to get away before they could harm her. A staple of the sub-genre is the heroine enacting brutality against abusers and would-be rapists, ultimately empowering her through the symbolic enacting of the violence committed against her. In this way, Hunted fits and excels. The audience knows the kind of men that Eve is running from. While we haven’t seen the character go through sexual violence, through taped abuse, we know what will happen to her if she’s caught.

The film is stressful to watch from the beginning to the end. From Eve dealing with dismissive men at work to her running from violent men in a forest, every moment of the film feels like you’re waiting for the next shoe to drop. But more specifically, every man she encounters is a potential threat—just like in real life—even the kindness of strangers means nothing when her obvious discomfort is ignored for the story a man is telling about her. Eve is truly alone.

In truth, Hunted is a hard film to watch and that is due in large part to the way the sound design captures the fear, isolation, and the terror of trying to run away. The sound of the film sits in you and as it focuses on its small and intimate cast, the score amplifies the violence and the stakes.

The violence in Hunted is graphic. From a hand going into a wound to an arrow going into an ear, it doesn’t shy away from brutality. While that is par for the course, I have a deep appreciation for not directly showcasing rape in the film. We know what happened to the women in the tape. We don’t need to see it. Instead, we’re shown small moments that tell the story and let us know of the danger the man pursuing Eve brings with him.

I have a hard time critiquing and reviewing films like this. While there isn’t a lot of dialogue, those given to the unnamed “handsome man” (Arieh Worthalter) who has become Eve’s stalker are chilling. He’s unrepentant, vile, and indiscriminate in his violence, which makes him terrifying. As for Eve, she is continually brutalized throughout the film in a way that will be hard for some to watch, but also makes the cathartic final act worth it, especially as she is dismissed by the men she asks for help.

Ultimately, Hunted succeeds in showcasing Red Riding Hood as a victor, but at a cost. Taking it one step further, it draws attention to the dangers women face daily, whether that’s going into a bar or going into a convenience store. The wolf that hunts Eve isn’t the man who keeps hitting on her, but rather the man who white knights the situation, gaining her trust, starting to get physical, and then betraying her. It’s the nice guy who is the wolf, and the nice guy act was grandma’s clothes. Even the dubbing him as “The Handsome Man” in the cast speaks to this. But in a poetic final moment of the film, the story of embracing the violence of a wolf offered in the film’s opening comes full circle.

So what does Hunted leave us with as viewers? Not much outside the pay-off we’ve come to expect from such films. It’s not a unique film but it does feature performances, mainly from Debay and Worthalter, that keep you entranced through the whole film. As Eve, you root for Debay. As the handsome wolf, you recoil in fear and anger and root for his death. That said, we’re given a lot of camera time with the stalker and instead of seeing more of Eve’s survival, Paronnaud and Pernollet focus in on his depravity, and that’s ultimately a week spot in the film.

Hunted is a rough watch, but a good one if you’re into the subgenre of rape-revenge films. Going into the film knowing what to expect is important, and while it doesn’t subvert many elements of the genre, it puts forth a good film. Hard to watch, but catharsis-offering in the end.

Hunted is available now, exclusively on Shudder.


Hunted
8.5/10

TL;DR

Hunted is a rough watch, but a good one if you’re into the subgenre of rape-revenge films. Going into the film knowing what to expect is important, and while it doesn’t subvert many elements of the genre, it puts forth a good film. Hard to watch, but catharsis-offering in the end.