Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Hunted'

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Josh Stewart's The Hunted will, if nothing else, provide you with a sure answer to this question: "Do I actually like found footage horror movies?" Oh sure, you've seen the "studio" examples like Cloverfield, Quarantine, and the various Paranormal Activity films -- and since you're reading FEARnet it's a safe bet you've seen some of the foreign-language goodies like [REC] and the original Silent House... but what of the decent if unspectacular indies that look, sound, and feel a whole lot like The Hunted

 
All of this is one "found footage" fan's way of saying that a whole lot of The Hunted is slow-paced, familiar, and sometimes even a little too deliberate for its own good -- and yet there's still a lot to like here. There's a big difference between hopping on a current trend and producing a straight-faced, simple horror story, and one gets the impression that The Hunted is an example of the latter. Like I said at the beginning, if you legitimately enjoy the found footage style of spooky storytelling, you'll probably dig what The Hunted has to offer.
 
Admirably low-key and simple, The Hunted is about a guy who is trying to create a hunting series for one of those cable channels that love hunting shows. Jake (host and head hunter) and Tony (semi-hunter and experienced cameraman) head out into the deepest parts of the West Virginia forest, plant a bunch of cameras everywhere, and settle in to wait for the biggest bucks in the woods. 
 
It's no spoiler to divulge that virtually everything goes wrong: bad weather, unpleasant strangers, faulty equipment, and practically nothing in the kill-worthy deer department. Has Jake, a seasoned and very astute huntsman, lost his touch completely? Is there something in the woods that doesn't want them there? And why is the owner of the hunting ground so evasive about simple questions?
 
A pessimist will see The Hunted as "two guys in the woods while we wait for something scary to happen." A realist will call the film a worthwhile homage to The Blair Witch Project, one that asks us to get to know Jake and Tony and settle in to the foreboding West Virginia wilderness before squinting into the screen for a glimpse of something that is definitely going bump in the night. Much like the recent (and also pretty solid) Willow Creek, the journey to the scares is more than half the movie, and it certainly helps that Jake, for example, is given just enough character development to make us actually care if his hunting show succeeds or fails.
 
Horror fans will remember Josh Stewart as the anti-heroic lead in The Collector and The Collection (plus he was also in a little flick called The Dark Knight Rises), and his directorial debut is a well-edited and strongly acted piece (both Stewart and Skipp Sudduth, as Tony, are quite good) that suffers from simple deja vu. The filmmakers do earn points for a gloomy vibe and some solid payoff scares in exchange for your first-half patience, all things considered, and (thankfully) the two guys never act as dumb/obnoxious as characters in these films often do. It's just that The Hunted has a decent story, a creepy setting, and some solid actors but there's simply no escaping how familiar this "found footage" forest feels by now.
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