Hunter Hunter Review: An Okay Horror Flick, a Memorable Ending
Yeah, we’re going to talk about the ending in a spoiler-free way, too.
You know when you’re on Facebook and you see a picture of a house in the forest with the caption, would you live here? I wouldn’t, but the family in Hunter Hunter does, replacing a typical modern lifestyle with one more akin to the hunter-gatherer societies that were all the rage in the past but still exist selectively in the world. Let’s just say that their peaceful attempt at life does not go exactly as planned.
Instead of starting at the beginning I am going to begin at the end. If you’ve heard of this flick then it’s likely because headlines consistently mention the ending. I resisted that urge myself, but it would be absurd not to acknowledge it. For a film that lacks light tonally it still manages to be upsettingly dark and relatively unpredictable. There are ways that you expect a plot to go, and then there is how Shawn Linden opted to go.
It’s not that it’s perfect. It is sufficiently gruesome enough for the gorehounds that occupy horror but after the shock dissipates it’s actually flat. This is partially because one of the key factors–it involves music, but that’s all I’ll say–of it feels shoehorned in, but it’s also because there isn’t enough emotional impact to matter. It tries, but it can’t stick the landing. What happens is a memorable swerve on the basis of narrative alone, but it’s not brilliantly handled.
Looking for the ending.
The finale is placed at the forefront of this review not only because it’s the most discussed aspect, but because there’s little to talk about elsewhere. Listen, Hunter Hunter is not a bad film, it’s just a decent idea that hasn’t been fully formed. It cribs from better films–which is not inherently awful since originality is difficult to come by–but isn’t capable enough to create its own unique identity outside of its conclusion.
There’s good scattered through, such as the budding dread that permeates the character’s lives when a wolf returns to cause havoc for this family. It functioned entertainingly enough as a survival thriller. But there’s a but–there’s always a but with Hunter Hunter. The menace is underdeveloped just like the rest of the movie.
Much of the film initially centers around the father, who is so unlikable that it’s hard to care. It’s not that having an unlikable character is bad–it’s that there is no attempt at explaining why he is the way he is. Let’s be honest, the dude is just a wanker–and needlessly so since they chose to be in the woods away from civilization. It touches briefly on his past in regards to why they are in the woods instead of in a town, but my main concern is why his wife would even fall in love with him. The guy is a charisma vacuum.
His wife and daughter are more deserving of empathy, and thankfully the film turns into more of a study of them. They are compatible enough; their interactions come the closest to crafting something worth investing in. But thematically the father is still important so it’s difficult to watch characters you could enjoy deal with this knob. I have to reiterate: if the man had an arc I could get behind how he is. His family does, but he doesn’t.
Also looking for the ending.
A film like this needs to nail atmosphere. It takes place mostly in the woods and that was a wasted opportunity to make it oppressive and terrifying. There’s a reason that the woods is such a horror trope–the uncertainty and solitude of it lends itself beautifully to the genre. Linden didn’t seem up to the task of taking the ball and running with it. He couldn’t translate the obvious into anything more than a competent but unremarkable horror thriller.
The framework is solid but doesn’t differentiate itself from the pack. Outside of the music, which is reminiscent of Denis Villeneuve’s trademark drone, it does little to compliment its premise. Were there many inspired shots that did anything to exhibit the lonely nature of, well, living out in nature? Nope. These people have been buried by their way of life and I rarely grasped that visually.
To his credit, there are occasional moments in which Linden proves potential. For example, he uses shadows to slightly submerge the father while illuminating the daughter. They have a close relationship, from what we can tell, but it’s clear that his commitment to maintaining their hermit lifestyle is to the detriment of her progression as a person. The darkness may be more suffocating outside of those two, but having him dipping into it is an old tactic that remains effective. It’s also when Linden’s directorial presence is most potent. If there were more of that then it would have made the film a lot more pleasant.
I’ve come down fairly hard on Hunter Hunter but I did enjoy it. The problem is not that it did anything so terribly that it’s insulting to the medium. It’s that it’s so by the book–minus the ending, mostly–that it’s hard to imagine a time where I look back at this as anything more than an okay movie. But hey, we will always have the final act, for better or worse, right? At least it has that.
He can beat up wolves.
THAT'S ENOUGH, GET TO THE SCORE
THE ENDING THE ENDING THE ENDING THE ENDING THE ENDING THE ENDING
The ending. Okay, seriously, Hunter Hunter is a mediocre but entertaining little horror thriller about a family who live in the woods. Even though the ending is what everybody will want to talk about, there is some good here among the bad. It’s enough to give it a passing grade, anyway.