Shudder Streaming: Hunted (2020) - Reviewed

Photo courtesy of Shudder

Premiering at the 2020 Fantasia Fest and now available on Shudder, Hunted is a survival horror film that is every woman’s worst nightmare.  Director and writer Vincent Parronaud was acclaimed for the Academy Award-nominated animated feature Persepolis in 2007, and now he’s back with a vengeance, telling a much different story of a female attempting to overcome hardships when the odds are stacked against her.

While Hunted touts itself as a modern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, outside of an animated introduction to the film relaying wolf folklore, the film bears scant resemblance to the fairy tale with the exception of the main character wearing a hooded red coat throughout and a few woodland creatures making cameos.  While the antagonist is no wolf, he certainly is a predator, hunting for his prey in the woods with as much (if not more) ferociousness as the villainous creature of lore.

Eve (Lucie Debay) is traveling for work, and the project she’s supervising isn’t going well for her.  Rather than ruminate over it in a hotel room, she decides to let loose at a local club.  Here, she encounters a charismatic, unnamed man (Arieh Worthalter), and after some seemingly innocent, flirty exchanges, things turn sinister and Eve ends up in the trunk of his car, en route to the woods to shoot a snuff film with a skittish male virgin who seems uncomfortable with the whole situation.  While she’s eventually able to escape from the trunk after a crash ejects her from the vehicle, the man, his movie camera, and his minion are in hot pursuit, and she must run for her life in order to escape being raped and murdered by these fiends.

While there are plenty of stylized shots and frenetic editing choices to keep the audience engaged, the problem with Hunted is the audience has very little investment in the protagonist, who only serves as a vehicle for the plot points to move forward.  Sure, we don’t want any harm to befall her, but outside of our humanistic desire to not see bad things happen to others, there’s no reason to care.  She’s a mostly flat character with little discernible personality outside of raw fear who makes a vast amount of irritatingly poor choices.  The antagonist is much more fleshed out, complex, and frankly interesting than her — and Worthalter’s excellent portrayal of him is enough to make anyone’s stomach turn — but their conflict felt pieced together with no compelling story arc.      

Hunted was entertaining enough, but there were some missed opportunities to explore the metaphorical parallels it was attempting to make with Eve’s feminine connection to nature and the predatory man as the quintessential “Big Bad Wolf” character.  While the imagery hints at it occasionally, some bolder choices could have been made to make this film stand apart from its countless “woman being chased” horror counterparts.  This small film should have gone bigger so it doesn’t eventually get lost in the sea of other films with this overdone premise.

If you’re looking for an action-packed horror film with some nice cinematography and decent gore effects, Hunted is for you.  If the prospect of this being a modern take on the Red Riding Hood story is what excites you about it, then pass on this one.  It’s good, old-fashioned survivor horror at its core, and thinking it’s high-concept will only sully your impression of it.

--Andrea Riley