Like I’ve stated in previous reviews, the horror genre continues to be a misunderstood one in film. Most people don’t like horror films; they think they’re trash, sleazy, and excuses for excessive blood and guts. But it so goes beyond that. Horror films can go deep into your soul, shake it, and never let it go. And it can also be about real-world issues, including survival. That’s where director Shawn Linden’s bloody but intense 2020 effort Hunter Hunter comes in.
In the middle of the woods, Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), a fur trapper, along with his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan) and daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell), struggle to keep afloat. They find that their traps are being toyed with by what they believe is a known rogue wolf. So, Joseph goes off on a search to pursue and finally catch the intimidating predator, leaving Anne and Renee to fend for themselves. They have to continue on while waiting for Joe to come back. As the film progresses, so does the paranoia. The family dog Tova disappears. Anne eventually finds him dead and buries him, without telling Renee about it. And to make matters even worse, they’re losing more access to food.
Things come to a terrifying head when Anne finds Lou (Nick Stahl), a severely wounded and mysterious man in the woods and rescues him. She finds Joe’s corpse in the woods, and soon discovers that Lou isn’t what he appears to be, and that she has left Renee alone with him. He eventually attacks her and forces her to tell him where the keys to her truck is, and just when we think he has the upper hand, she attacks him with a bear trap. Things get bleaker when Anne goes into Renee’s room and discovers her dead. In one of the most grisly final moments in horror cinema in years, she ties him up, tortures him (by slicing him up and tearing half of his face off), and the last shot is her sitting on the porch steps, covered in blood. Cut to black.
Sorry to spoil the film, but it was a really nice and twisted surprise. I found myself invested in the family and their dilemma, and feel for them when the shit hits the fan. And as I gave away the ending, it is really messed up and tragic. The film itself is a terrific mixture of “beast vs man,” family conflict, survival drama, and ultimate horror. It also has some feminist etches into it as well, as both Anne and Renee have to take care of themselves and each other, because that’s all they have now. In this case, the performances, especially from Sullivan, really deliver. Sawa is great, Howell is really good in her role, and Stahl definitely earns his chops as the sinister Lou. Overall, a solid cast.
Unfortunately, there is only a trailer. There are also trailers for No Man’s Land, Kindred, and The Night, before the main menu appears. I wish that there would have been more like commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, a making-of doc, especially to see how the director, cast, and crew created the film and what they thought about it while making it. Since this is not exactly a mainstream film, and it is apart of the IFC Midnight series, I guess there was no more for special features. Oh well.
Despite the lack of bonus materials on the Blu-ray, I think this is a unique and bold entry in modern horror. It’s not afraid to go off the rails, and it does teach you some valuable lessons: never live in the woods (if you can help it), and never bring an stranger into your home (not even if you want help them). You can’t trust most people these days.