HUNTER HUNTER (2020) is a slow burn thriller that gradually makes its way to an exceedingly dark conclusion, meaning that whether or not you like this one will depend on how you feel about jaw-dropping agonizing endings. If you like that sort of thing, no doubt you’ll have no problem with this movie. However, if you’re like me, and prefer that if a movie goes down that rabbit hole, that there’s something more than just a an all out sense of bleakness, then you may find that this flick is not your cup of tea.
HUNTER HUNTER is the story of a family living off the grid in the woods. Anne (Camille Sullivan), her husband Joseph (Devon Sawa), and their daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) need to hunt to survive. They live in a cabin without electricity, prepare their own food, and trade furs at the local store in town for food and supplies. They live this way because Joseph doesn’t like people very much and chose this lifestyle, and Anne chose it as well when she chose him. However, tensions have arisen betwee the couple because their lifestyle is becoming more difficult to sustain, and Anne believes their daughter deserves a normal life in a real house with real friends and the chance to go to a real school.
When a wolf returns to their woods, a wolf they have encountered before, and one that Anne describes as “mean,” Joseph promises to track and kill it. But when he’s out searching for the wolf, he makes another grisly discovery, and then doesn’t return home. Meanwhile, Anne and Renee discover a ring inside some wolf scat, and they bring it to their local sheriff’s department, but the officers there tell her they can’t help her since the woods don’t fall under their jurisdicition.
However, later, the sheriff Barthes (Gabriel Daniels) begins to speculate while looking at posters of missing persons on his wall, that if that ring had been attached to a finger… and so he decides to take a drive out towards those woods.
At night, Anne and Renee hear the cries of someone in pain in the woods, and they discover a man (Nick Stahl) crying for help, and he appears to have been attacked by the wolf. They bring the stranger into their cabin to tend to his wounds.
What follows is one of the grimmest endings I’ve seen in a while.
HUNTER HUNTER is a slow-burn thriller that works well for nearly the entire movie. Written and directed by Shawn Linden, it’s a solid piece of filmmaking. The characters are fleshed out nicely, the story of the wolf works and builds suspense. All is well until the ending.
The film only runs about 90 minutes, and this solid steady pace continues nearly an hour and fifteen minutes into the film, setting the stage for a rather quick and brutal ending that for me just wasn’t satisfying after all that had come before it. It was less about it being a dark ending for me, than it being an abrupt one. I wanted more. Everything unfolds and ends quickly.
Also, the wolf is almost a Hitchcock Macguffin. The animal is not what the film is ultimately about. Its presence is integral to the plot however, as earlier Anne and Joseph wonder why it keeps coming back, and Joseph’s grisly discovery in the woods seems to be the reason why.
The screenplay is very good, the dialogue realistic.
Camille Sullivan is excellent in the lead role as Anne, and both her character and her performance are pushed to their limits in the film’s finale. Devon Sawa makes for a competent survivalist husband, although he’s absent for most of the film once he departs in search of the wolf. Summer H. Howell also turns in a very good performance as daughter Renee.
Nick Stahl is sufficiently sketchy as the stranger Lou who Anne and Renee take into their cabin. Years back, Stahl played an adult John Connor in TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003), one of the lesser effective TERMINATOR movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And both Gabriel Daniels and Lauren Cochrane add fine support as the local law enforcement officers whose banter with each other adds some light relief throughout the story.
So, I liked HUNTER HUNTER, but I did not like the ending, which lowered this one several notches. First, it’s all rather abrupt. And then, it is incredibly dark, reducing the story to a simple tale of revenge, and that’s just not what the previous hour plus of this film had been about. The one theme it confirms in the story is Joseph lives in the woods with his family because he doesn’t like or trust people, and that notion is certainly validated by film’s end, and then some! It all makes for a rather cynical piece of storytelling when you come right down to it.
If you enjoy grim horror, visceral violent tales of vengeance, you will enjoy HUNTER HUNTER.
For me, it was simply much too grim to be appreciated. Yes, bad things happen to good people, and when given the chance, these victims might strike back in the most brutal of ways. This is one such story, or at least the ending is, anyway, as the story prior was about survival, family, and doing what was necessary to provide for that family, including seeking out and taking down a threatening wolf in the surrounding woods.
The ending is about none of these things.
Books by Michael Arruda:
DARK CORNERS, Michael Arruda’s second short story collection, contains ten tales of horror, six reprints and four stories original to this collection.
Waiting for you in Dark Corners are tales of vampires, monsters, werewolves, demonic circus animals, and eternal darkness. Be prepared to be both frightened and entertained. You never know what you will find lurking in dark corners.
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
How far would you go to save your family? Would you change the course of time? That’s the decision facing Adam Cabral in this mind-bending science fiction adventure by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
Michael Arruda reviews horror movies throughout history, from the silent classics of the 1920s, Universal horror from the 1930s-40s, Hammer Films of the 1950s-70s, all the way through the instant classics of today. If you like to read about horror movies, this is the book for you!
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, first short story collection by Michael Arruda.
Michael Arruda’s first short story collection, featuring a wraparound story which links all the tales together, asks the question: can you have a relationship when your partner is surrounded by the supernatural? If you thought normal relationships were difficult, wait to you read about what the folks in these stories have to deal with. For the love of horror!