Filmmaker and comic book artist Vincent Paronnaud’s directorial debut is a mix of different things in its execution. In the case of Hunted, these kinds of films are generally entertaining and thrilling to watch; They still take a little more ingenuity each time, and so it depends on the director’s vision, and their handling thereof, and casting Lucie Debay proves an excellent choice for Paronnaud who co-wrote the pic with Léa Pernollet.
Following an animated prologue featuring an evening moment of storytime in the woods with a survivalist and her son, Hunted introduces the story of Eve (Lucie Debay), an on-site contract supervisor stressed by her job by the demands of her foreman, and far from interested in answering her loved ones’ calls. Instead, she sets out to drink her night away at the local bar where after being accosted by a drunk patron, a man (Arieh Worthalter) emerges from the dance floor and comes to her defense.
Before Eve knows it, she and the man have hit it off with a backseat tête-à-tête in his car, until he suddenly disengages moments before the man Eve presumed to be his brother starts driving. The moment descends into an increasing panic as Eve demands to be let out of the car, while the man she was kissing only moments ago begins to show his darker, more sadistic side, and it’s not until further down the road in the dark of night that Eve finally manages to exit the car and head to the convenience store nearby, where once again, the man and his obliging cohort corners her, forcing her into the trunk of the car and driving off.
As time starts running out for Eve, things change in a blink of an eye, giving her a fighting chance by evading her would-be captors. What ensues is a days-long journey for Eve as she’s forced to adapt to the surrounding wilderness while never losing her footing. The man she once saw as an evening’s romantic prospect has turned out to be something far worse, with plans of his own as Eve comes to terms with her situation fighting to keep her sanity, that is, until her deadly, feral, inner-most instincts are all that she has left.
You have to give it to Paronnaud for blending a bit of social drama here with an escapist feel in Hunted. At its core is a raw, nuanced thriller that strikes a chord with its sheer, dark, pensive imagery dealing in nature and the wild, and seeing how Eve adapts while still holding onto hope. Leaning further and further away from social drama, you get a character study in Hunted, that sees how the worst, most terrible condition and situations can suitably strip you of your approachable façade and reveal your most central truth, speaking highly on one of the most common lessons about life and conquering under insurmountable pressure.
There are a few creative Hail Maries that don’t feel as engaging, including a moment where a supporting character somehow briefly survives an attack by our aforementioned killer, thus giving Eve a fighting chance. Another scene relies on set piece optics and controlled cinematography to lend the illusion that our two warring characters are in the wild. It’s weird and bizzare to watch, and all the more suggestive depending on how you like your artful depictions of climatic character development.
Hunted goes from intriguing and suspenseful, to horrific and harrowing for its well-over eighty minute duration. Debay’s performance is an absolute roar on screen opposite that of Worthalter’s, and the action and gore purely stimulates with Paronnaud’s direction and vision. It’s got its share of hits and misses, but it’s pulpy allure will undoubtedly be a noteworthy crowdpleaser.
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Belgium, France, Ireland
Vincent Paronnaud, Léa Pernollet
Alexandre Perrier, Benoit Roland
Yohann Comte, Conor Barry
Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter