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STUDIO Entertainment One
RUNNING TIME 88 Minutes
• Audio Commentary with Josh Stewart and Producers
• “The True Story”
A small found-footage movie that really works… mostly.
Josh Stewart, Ronnie Gene Blevins
Chasing their dream of landing their own hunting show, Jake and Stevie head to the dense, secluded mountains of West Virginia. Equipped with only their bow and a camera, they have just three days to kill a monster buck big enough to grab the attention of the network… and they’ve found him. But the sun has set, and they realize they’re not alone.
The mere mention of “found-footage” is enough to elicit sneers of derision from the average cross-section of moviegoers. I’ll spare you the history of the sub-genre, you’ve likely heard it so often that you could recite it from memory at this point, but it’s safe to say that it’s been kind of a big deal for the last few years now.
Bringing up “found-footage” will of course bring up discussions about how it’s over-used, major failures of the genre, and dismissal of the whole thing as a faddish gimmick that will hopefully go away. I would agree that the market is over-saturated and there are a lot of failures (this type of movie only ever works with horror movies, if at all) but I refuse its classification as a mere gimmick.
The modern found-footage movie is the equivalent of the “journal” type novel (example: Dracula) and much like its analogue, it limits perspective but deepens insight. A found footage gives you a much smaller view of the “big picture” but it more deeply immerses you in what’s going on at ground level. The other side of this coin is that, when it’s done poorly, it’s awful to behold; but these movies are as good or bad as the people working on them.
The Hunted has a hook so good that I don’t know how it hasn’t been used until now: our protagonists are filming a pilot for a hunting show. This premise allows for our protagonists to be in a remote location with a camera before and after dark, it means we’ll have multiple camera angles, it couldn’t be more perfect.
The movie starts off showing some of its own potential by having the main character’s children messing with the different camera rigs, it’s a nice way to show off whilst also establishing some emotional stakes for later. We then follow our protagonist and his cameraman (as is often the case, the cameraman is the true main character of the story) out to the woods to film their show.
The meat of the movie is the three days that the two have set aside to film their pilot. Scares aren’t frequent or showy, the movie chooses to build dread rather than go for jump scares. The characters hear a woman screaming in fear and pain before the sun rises and after it sets, and someone is sabotaging their stands and messing with their equipment.
Our characters don’t spend a lot of time investigating the cause of these disturbances because they effect what they are doing very little. The horror elements remain in the background for most of the movie, only coming into prominence in the finale.
The last night works fairly well but it starts to come apart at the seams. There’s no reason why the characters should be running around filming their own faces, the GoPro cameras on their harnesses are rarely used, and there’s creepy music over this section which just feels manipulative and took me right out of the moment. This section is one use of night vision (a tactic this movie thankfully does not employ) from being like every other found-footage horror movie at this point. The ending has been done to death and I actually exclaimed in disgust when I saw it.
The ending is weak, bad at its very last, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the movie for me. While the end is cliched and a bit nonsensical, it is suitably unsettling and the movie manages to not cheat too much. The Hunted is a nice small found-footage movie with two excellent leads, a good build-up, and a great premise. It’s worth a watch.
The Hunted is presented in 16X9 (1.78:1) with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. There’s a commentary with lead/producer Josh Stewart and the other producers as well as an explanation of the “true story” tenuously linked to the movie. The disc has English subtitles.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars