A modern, poignant, unflinching remix of the classic Little Red Riding Hood fable, the must-see new survival horror film Hunted premieres on Shudder this week, and you’re definitely going to want to carve out some time to sit and take in this ferocious and powerful tale of innocence pushed into rage in the face of true evil.
It is at times brutal and at other times magical, but always visceral and heart pounding, a fast-paced revenge thriller that’s not exactly what you’re expecting, effectively elevated through the visionary lens of a supremely talented director, unforgettable performances, an excellent soundtrack, and timely social commentary.
This marks the live-action, English-language, and solo directorial debut for acclaimed French filmmaker and comic artist Vincent Paronnaud (Cannes Jury Prize Winner Persepolis, Chicken with Plums), and he effectively imbues the harrowing story with near relentless tension and a hightened, poetic visual style that is captivating.
Co-written by Paronnaud and Léa Pernollet, the story is of a girl – wearing a striking red hoodie – who meets a guy at a bar she’s never been to, has some flirtatious fun with the nameless and suspiciously weird man, and is then kidnapped by him and his friend, who have plans to have “fun” with her with a little help from some Viagra. But things don’t go as planned, starting when a wild boar comes charging out of the woods only to stand directly in the path of the oncoming vehicle, causing it to flip. This sets the real story in motion, as the woman must now flee into the woods, with her hands still bound, in hopes of a desperate escape.
The film stars Lucie Debay (The Confession), who turns in a star-making performance that deserves all the praise (and hopefully awards) it is destined to receive as Eve, alone in a strange town to oversee a construction development. Anxious and trying to ignore the constant calls from her boyfriend (or husband?), she leaves her stark motel room to go have a drink at the nearby bar, where she meets a handsome but instantly too friendly guy whose name is never mentioned.
Arieh Worthalter (Girl) is “The Handsome Guy” from the bar, playing up his sleazy unlikability more with every increasingly panicked word, as the chase through an increasingly dangerous forest continues. Ciaran O’Brien rounds out the small main cast as the guy’s friend, “The Accomplice,” who is much more hesitant and timid than his friend, and finds himself with a nasty stomach wound following the car crash. Their brief interactions and the twisted dynamic between them are a crash course in toxic masculinity.
The film opens with a mother at night in the woods telling her son a campfire story, of an innocent girl who was to be murdered in that same forest in Biblical times, but the forest and its creatures felt for her purity and saved her, allowing her to ride giant wolves and stave off those who would do her harm. The mother, who we later learn is a survivalist training her son to one day live in an apocalyptic world, tells her son that the girl from the story is called The Wolf Girl. It’s an awesome opening scene, which perfectly sets the tone and lays out the themes for what follows.
The soundtrack by Roman Vinuesa is outstanding and really helps drive the film to its wildly satisfying climax.
Highly recommended, Hunted is such an undeniably engrossing, even cathartic, experience that it demands your attention, and it may just inspire some howling at the moon.
Hunted will premiere on Shudder this Thursday, Jan. 14.
You can check out the official trailer and poster below.
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