Hunter Hunter (2020) was a wonderfully structured mystery, a thrilling, woodland whodunnit where I didn’t quite know who to point the finger at due to the many possibilities that were cleverly written into the script. When writer/director Shawn Linden does finally reveal all in the bloody climax, he doesn’t just rest on having a “gimmick” and I’ll leave it at that!
In a remote wilderness, a small family — father Joesph (Devon Sawa), mother Anne (Camille Sullivan), and young daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) — live off of the land, choosing a hard but simple life of foraging and hunting over living in the city. One day, they notice that their traps are being looted. They suspect that a notorious wolf has returned to the area again, threatening their meat supply, and seeming to stalk each family member in the woods. Joe sets out to hunt down the wolf, but after not returning for days, a stranger wanders into their area, injured beyond the ability to walk. As they nurse him back to health, Anne’s struggles to survive without Joe come to a head when she discovers the true beast that has entered their woods.
The whole movie had me sitting on the edge of my seat even though its pacing was that of a slow-burner, perhaps Hunter Hunter would be better described as a low rumble — I anticipated that an onslaught was coming with the addition of each new scene that seemed to foreshadow and intensify the tone of the movie. It ended up taking a couple of acts for things to build up to a peak, and boy did it, as Linden truly went there with a climax that turns from heartbreaking to graphic and bloody — both visually and narratively impactful, with a lasting image that I will be thinking of for quite a while.
What I enjoyed most about Hunter Hunter was the character arch of the family matriarch, Anne, played by Camille Sullivan in an emotive performance that was award-worthy, in my opinion. She spilled her guts figuratively — and others’ guts literally — going from homesteader to hunter in the blink of a bloody eye. A little more gruesome than your average murder-mystery thriller, Hunter Hunter delicately treads into horror territory, making Sullivan’s performance an addition to the amazing recent performances in mother roles, like actresses Toni Collette and Essie Davis. Devon Sawa is unrecognizable in a hardened and mature performance as Joseph, starkly different from his Idle Hands (1999) days.
The movie’s thickly wooded setting gives a shadowiness to the coloring that in turn adds a creepiness to Hunter Hunter‘s already moody and foreboding atmosphere. Great musical score that’s a mix of horror and indie rock, deep-dive acting from its committed performers, and editing that kept a brisk pace until the well done climax make Hunter Hunter, available December 18th on VOD, one not to be missed.
8 out of 10
HUNTER HUNTER is available in Select Theaters, Digital and On Demand December 18th.