Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud. Starring: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O’Brien. Runtime: 1h 27 min. Minor spoilers follow.
In Hunted, Eve (Lucie Debay) is on a work trip in an anonymous European town. She goes to a bar one night where she meets a character simply called The Handsome Guy (Arieh Worthalter), a smooth-talking gentlemen… or so he first seems, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. With his sidekick The Accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien), they force Eve into a fight for survival through the wilderness.
At its most basic, Hunted is a classic hunter-hunted story in a survival thriller that is very much up my alley. Looking deeper, the film’s fable adds depth to it as the film, written by director Vincent Paronnaud (and co-written by Léa Pernollet), takes a lot of inspiration from the Little Red Riding Hood story. A lot of this comes from the main aspect of the film that these specific men are wolves and predatory; as well as some visual aspects of the film, namely Eve’s stark red jacket. She doesn’t have a hood or a basket of cookies, but you get the picture.
This is very much a (Wo)man vs. man conflict in story and set-up, but the man vs. nature aspect of the film, especially where nature works against our villain, make for intriguing moments. Most of these moments where the world works against the villain feels natural, and that’s a great thing about this film. However, near the end of the film, a paintball coming into play felt so random it threatened to hurt the realism of this story. That’s because the third act has Paronnaud and Pernollet taking on a more surreal style with the story, where the score becomes lively and the action really reaches its peak.
As for the performances, they are strong. Lucie Debay has great survival instincts as Eve and watching her navigate this situation is compelling. She becomes more fascinating as the forest seems to be on her side during this battle, and it’s awesome when she finds that ferocity within herself. Arieh Worthalter is great as the main villain here. Psychopathic and unpredictable makes for a great “Big Bad Wolf” here, and his gaslighting and manipulation to Eve, but especially towards his Accomplice, is a strange and interesting dynamic to watch.
Strange in the way that… well, when the chase between them and Eve begins is with a car crash, and that’s caused by Handsome Man exerting his power over his accomplice and demanding a kiss and their car crashes as they slowly go in for the smooch and a wild boar goes in front of the car. This is one of the many examples of nature shoving its foot into the conflict, however this set-up for the crash feels really funny, whether intentional or not, just the almost slow-motion of going in for the kiss before they see the boar.
The tension in the film is handled so well by Paronnaud in the film, too, especially when the villain comes across other characters in the woods, as these moments are memorable and hold some of Worthalter’s most intimidating moments, especially because we know what’s bound to happen.
The cinematography of the film, by Joachim Phillippe, is also strong. It’s a hunter/hunted film that could be very flat in its visuals, but Phillippe and director Paronnaud work well together to create a forest that feels alive. The different shots of nature and those aspects of the film complement it, as well.
This film starts streaming on Shudder on Thursday, Jan. 14 in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand.