29 September 2014

The Hunted 2013 - REVIEW

If you look up films that are comprised of the "found footage" and "based on a true story" premise, you'll most likely find a very long list of ones that I dislike the most. The last time I enjoyed one was in 1999 when The Blair Witch Project was released. It was a creepy, cool, new thing but flash forward 15 years and both of those concepts are way over played.

The Hunted centers around Jake (Josh Stewart) and Stevie (Ronnie Gene Blevins), two hunters out to shoot the pilot of their new hunting show. Dragging camera equipment along with them they set out into the dense woods of West Virginia in search of a massive buck named "Movie Star". Things are looking favorable until they start hearing screams coming from the darkness. After hearing it a couple of nights in a row, Jake insists that it's the scream of a bobcat but Stevie isn't convinced and goes in search of answers. During his talks with the locals, he discovers that Movie Star isn't the only thing haunting the woods but there is also the malevolent spirit of a vengeful ghost that roams in the darkness.

Stewart, first time writer and director of the film, managed to create very strong and likable characters whose dramatically different personalities enhanced both the tense and funny moments throughout the film; and the duo does an outstanding job playing off one another. What I enjoyed most about it was how both main characters propelled the story forward but in different ways. Jake's goal was getting the footage for the pilot while Stevie led the film into the supernatural direction by coaxing folklore out of the locals.

Nowadays, it's hard not to compare films from this sub genre to others. Films like Paranormal Activity and Quarantine have made it almost impossible to appreciate something as subtle and suggestive as say, The Blair Witch Project. But much like it's predecessor, The Hunted is a slow build until the final act when all bets are off.

The Hunted, however, is not without it's hiccups. The main issue I had was with the antagonist. It's hard for an audience to connect with a situation when they don't know what they're suppose to be afraid of. Viewers will know that something is out there but it's mostly subjective... like Pontypool. You get a sense of what's going on and that it's pretty bad but the rest is left up to the imagination. That doesn't necessarily lessen the value of the film though. Some people just aren't as imaginative as others and likely won't get it. At least not until the final act where it turns into a crazy, intense nail biter that's guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Stewart has clearly learned the ins and outs of filmmaking during his many years as an actor and I applaud his efforts to branch out into other areas. While not a perfect film, The Hunted is leaps and bounds better than most I've seen and definitely worth a watch. Word to the wise, watch out for that Stewart gaze. Those dreamy eyes can make it a bit hard to concentrate, or maybe it's just me. Either way, this is a film I would've loved to have to added to the Twisted Tails Film Festival line up had I known about it in time.

The Hunted is available for download on Amazon and iTunes and on DVD at Walmart.

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