Eve (Lucie Debay) has had a frustrating day at work at a construction site in a small town, while also avoiding insecure texts from her significant other. She decides to go to a local bar to blow off some steam. What started as a fun and flirty meeting with a seemingly nice stranger (Arieh Worthalter), turns into a life-or-death struggle as Eve becomes the unknowing target of a misogynistic plot against her. Forced to flee as the unnamed man and his accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien) pursue her through the forest, Eve is pushed to her limits while fighting to survive in the wilderness.
While out for a night out at a bar, a typical bar creep approaches Eve. She tries to brush him off, but this is not enough and a kind stranger comes to her rescue…or so we think. The kind stranger shares a drink with Eve, they dance a few songs, and opt to go out to mess around a little. Sounds like many a Saturday night to me.
Eve feels comfortable thus far, and decides to go for a ride with the kind stranger. Things get messy within minutes when the stranger becomes a complete a-hole. Soon enough, his shy buddy joins them in the car to Eve’s surprise. With the menacing stranger leading the attack, both men terrorize Eve. A series of events lead to a car accident that allows Eve to escape from the car’s trunk and into the woods for what becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Eve and the attackers.
Many reference the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale when describing Vincent Parnonnaud‘s latest feature, Hunted. When we think about it, the fairy tale does lend itself well to horror genre. There is a so-called ‘helpless girl’ alone in the woods while being hunted by the Big Bad Wolf. In this film’s case, the wolf is not a werewolf. As we hear in the opening campfire scene, “The company of wolves is better than that of man,” clearly setting up the film as sort of cautionary tale that tries to turn things around in favour of the girl, or woman in this case.
To some this premise may sound far fetched. However, Paronnaud and his co-writer Léa Pernollet create enough unpredictability in this cat-and-mouse game to keep us engaged throughout. The pacing of the film matches the anxiety Eve is experiencing as she tries to escape the men time and time again. The once kind stranger has become a total psychopath in the forest, even turning against his accomplice. He is a ticking bomb. He will stop at nothing; he must catch his prey. We sit watching the story unravel as we hope Eve will outwit this menace of a man. It is not until the latter part of the film that we see, what to me is, a pay back of sorts. Eve reaches her limits and decides enough is enough. At this point, there are no holds barred.
To not give much away, I will say the film has elements of a revenge film, fairy tale lore, and supernatural elements, all combined into an adrenaline fuelled film. The primary cast are really good in their respective roles. Debay as Eve gives it her all until the very end. She is not to be messed with. Worthalter is an extreme version of a ‘bad guy’. He becomes quite a dislikable character within minutes of being on-screen; we just loathe him.
Aside from casting, I want to highlight the work of Joachim Philippe, director of photography. The shots in day and night in the forest certainly add to the fairy tale aspects of the film. They also bring out an animalistic energy which complements the film, highlighting the energy Eve and the stranger embody while they fight for their own survival.
Hunted is not for everyone. TW/CW: It is a genre film that goes beyond the gruesome and bloody violence. Aside the gruesome violence, Paronnaud and team bring to light the actual horrors of rape culture with a story and a character that come across as quite real, in a visceral way, real.
As a woman, there are many aspects of the film that made me cringe but also made it somewhat relatable. I found myself thinking, ‘that’s right, sometimes I just want to go out for a drink and be left alone.’ I also thought, ‘why is there always that one bar creep… the one who won’t take no for an answer?’. I think this is what femme audiences bring to these new types of genre ‘revenge’ films; a new perspective.
Let’s see more films like Hunted, with their supernatural/fairy tale aspects and everything else in between. There is a whole audience ready for them
Hunted is currently streaming on Shudder.