Saturday, December 26, 2020

Hunter Hunter: There is a Wolf in the Woods

Joseph Mersault's family does not hunt because they are cruel. It is not even a matter of sport. If they do not hunt and trap for meat and pelts, they won’t have food on their table. This hard winter, they might also have to hunt a rival predator to avoid becoming a meal for it. Nature and man vie to show who is more dangerous in Shawn Linden’s Hunter Hunter, which is now available on VOD.

It is a hard, hand-to-mouth life, but it is the only way of living that makes sense to Mersault. His wife Anne is not so sure anymore. She suspects their home-schooled daughter Renee would be better off if she had more structure and socialization, but the young girl idolizes her father and wants to follow in his outdoorsy footsteps. However, both parents agree to temporarily keep her close to their cabin.

Lately, they have seen signs of an unusually aggressive wolf scaring off game and feasting off their traps. It appears to have a taste for blood and little fear, making it especially dangerous. With pelt prices plummeting, Mersault resolves to track and kill the beast. Unfortunately, we start to suspect there are other, more vicious dangers lurking in the woods.

Hunter Hunter
is sort of a big-twist movie, but we are ready and waiting for the shocking revelation long before it happens. Yet, Linden’s execution is so tight and tense, we still hold our breath watching it unfold. There is some buzz growing about the nearly Biblical conclusion, which is indeed pretty powerful, yet it is also totally logical within the context of the film.

Devon Sawa and Camille Sullivan look rugged and gritty as the Mersaults. There is nothing glamorous about their performances. Sullivan is especially impressive portraying Anne’s desperation and resolve when circumstances take a turn for the worse, halfway through. She is the one who really makes the memorable thing work so well. Nick Stahl does a nice job keeping his appearance as the mystery man as ambiguous as possible (despite viewers’ inevitable suspicions), but Gabriel Daniels really deserves credit for giving unexpected heft and dimension to Barthes, a local sheriff’s deputy, specializing in wildlife incidents.

Hunter Hunter, Linden and his cast prove you can still make a familiar (even predictable) narrative suspenseful. They put in the necessary time investing in the characters and setting, ironically creating a physically wide-open, but emotionally constrained space for the film to unfold in. Recommended for fans of dark psychological thrillers that border on horror, Hunter Hunter is now available on VOD.