Hunted (2020) is a Stylish yet Familiar Take on Little Red Riding Hood
First Wide Release: August 21, 2020 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Vincent Paronnaud
Writer: Vincent Paronnaud, Léa Pernollet, Stephen Shields, David H. Pickering
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Starring: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O’Brien
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Ève (Lucie Debay) is working on a project out of town and is exhausted from work. After ignoring calls from her partner, she decides to get a drink at a bar. There, she is immediately hit on by a strange man and before she could do much else another man (Arieh Worthalter) swoops in to send the stranger on his way. Thankful for deescalating an uncomfortable situation, Ève decides to get drinks with him. Not long after she ends up in his car and driving to his place, or so he says. This sets off a chain of events where Ève must fight back against him and his accomplice (Ciarnan O’Brien) in the wilderness in a primal battle for survival.
Hunted is a familiar yet invigorating survival horror film that pits the strength, cunning, and will to survive of man and woman against each other.
An allegory, similar to "Little Red Riding Hood", of a woman fighting back against a terrible predator, Hunted begins with a fantastical and dark prologue that sets the stage for the story to come. It’s deeply aesthetic and captures such a cool energy that I wish was sustained for the rest of the film. That’s not to say Hunted isn’t chock full of great visuals and imagery like excessive fog, neon lighting, faces covered in paintball splatter, and forest artwork but after a while it feels more like a collection of sleek visuals rather than a story.
To begin, a very important, but small, touch that I find really great is the inclusion of the tiny subplot of Ève’s relationship with Alex. We don’t really know anything about Alex except that they are likely in a relationship with Ève and are suffocating her. Eventually, Ève meets The Guy and they both make out before Ève gets into a car with him. This ties in with the opening sequence very nicely.
The prologue informs us that the woods will protect innocent women. Throughout the film Ève is guided and shielded by the forest’s creatures, plant-life, and even weather to give her a leg up in this fight. Even though Ève made a decision to cheat and get in the car of a strange man in an unfamiliar place, she is still innocent and deserving of her dignity and life.
Characters don’t always make the most logical choice here. Their choices seem very much fueled by human emotion, which make them feel more realistic. Jeremy not fighting back against The Guy initially, The Guy not giving up when the tables turn, Ève getting into the car or finding more opportunities to run, are all fantastic examples of this. It makes the film more compelling that it should be. It also paves the way for the development of Ève’s character.
Lucie Debay undergoes a glorious transformation as Ève. We watch in gleeful anticipation as she unravels to become her most base self in an act of self-love and preservation. She stops at nothing to thwart The Guy’s pursuit even if that means becoming a hunter herself. Speaking of The Guy, Arieh Worthalter’s performance is nothing to scoff at either. The switch from charming club patron to the maniacal and narcissistic sociopath is incredibly well-done. His strength as a villain absolutely elevates the film beyond standard genre fare and makes the action more uncomfortable.
More like a fever dream in a music video than a movie, Hunted opts for style over sense to tell its story. This is highlighted by choppy editing, bombastic visuals, and strong leading performances. My biggest gripes come from the logic of the main antagonists letting Ève leave the car in the first place and dropping the character of Jeremy as soon as he is reintroduced. Both of these choices stretch the realm of believability in my opinion, but not too much to destroy the film’s credibility.
I found myself mostly enjoying Hunted while trying my best to disregard the parts that didn’t land for me. It has great leading actors that flex their skills across a very demanding film. Hunted is also an incredibly artistic film with a clear vision on what Paronnaud hopes to achieve. Its biggest drawback lies in the script and setup that doesn’t come up with compelling enough reasons to string the artistically rendered scenes together. Overall a satisfying watch, Hunted is a solid allegorical horror film that will whet the appetites of horror cinephiles and arthouse aficionados.
Overall Score? 6/10