Hunt or Be Hunted: Hunter Hunter (2020) - Reviewed

images courtesy IFC

Living off the grid takes center focus in the new survivalist horror film, Hunter Hunter from creator and director Shawn Linden. Known mostly for the television series In Plain Sight, Linden makes the jump to full length features with this 2020 feature film release, a hybrid project that sees Devon Sawa and Nick Stahl make formative returns to the realms of horror/thriller. 

Using hints of the first season of True Detective, 2015's The Survivalist, and the stark depression of The Road, Linden takes a chance on a movie that struggles to find a clear message in its first acts but ultimately delivers a mind numbing conclusion rooted in fear and loss. 

Breaking away from societal norms, a family of three lives off the land in the northern woods, hunting and providing for themselves via mother nature's supply of fish and game. Their lives are a constant reminder of the modern world that lives right outside their grasp as they struggle to survive day to day as their surroundings don't offer the tranquility they had hoped for. Providing food and a way of life are not as simple as they seem. Money and technology have very little meaning to them. When a massive grey wolf returns to their domain, all hell breaks loose turning their mostly uneventful lives into a thrilling game of blood and gore that's capped off by an absolutely brutal conclusion that turns the entire film on its side. 

Starting off as a nature based story of human endurance against the odds, Hunter Hunter quickly devolves into a game of cat and mouse that mixes multiple genres to full effect. Teetering between nature based drama and a full dive into horror, Linden's latest is a slow burn that revels in its natural set pieces, giving his audience a real feel of what it would be like to live in a musky cabin in the middle of nowhere as mortal fear strikes at every turn. 
As the story unravels and builds, we're reminded of what we might do as parents to protect our children from darkness in its purest form. 

Hunter Hunter exists in a gradient space. This is not a typical genre piece. It definitely takes hints of multiple other films and loads them all in the chamber, hoping for something explosive to happen. And it does. The third act makes the entire movie worth the watch. The motherly character of Anne is driven to the brink of madness as her life uncoils into a searing turn of events that sees her become the protector of their world when evil comes calling. 

Fortunately the reappearance of Nick Stahl along with a grizzled Devon Sawa works in the film's favor. Adding Camille Sullivan's talent along with young actor Summer H. Howell as the two female leads makes the movie all the better. All of their performances here add to a slightly muddled script by bringing emotive characters to the screen. Sawa (Final Destination, Idle Hands) feels right at home here.