When I browse social media I find a very common practice, which is also very curious. People ask about certain kind of movies to watch to suit a particular mood. Sometimes they want to cry themselves to sleep. Other times they want to be scared out of their wits. But if there’s a request that’s more common than those, it is when they ask to be thrilled. They want a movie to shake and rattle them. Posting horror movies as an answer is a very ordinary response. But on some occasions, it’s something more specific than just frights needed. Even though answers vary (it’s hard to explain succinctly), that bag of feelings was the one I got when the credits rolled in Hunter Hunter.
Hunter Hunter is the answer those hungry viewers have been on the look out for.
In the film, we meet a family who’s living off the grid in a cabin on the edge of the woods. The father, Joe (Devon Sawa, “The Exorcism of Molly Hartley”), hunts. The mother, Anne (Camille Sullivan, “A Dog’s Way Home”), cooks and sells the fur from her husband’s kills. The daughter, Renee (Summer H. Howell, “Clouds”), learns. Anne is not very happy with how their lifestyle has taken the family towards the edge of permanent hunger. But her spouse insists on staying that way. A wolf is on the premises of their cabin and Joe promises to protect them at all costs. When he goes out to hunt the animal, he happens upon a horrid scene in the middle of the woods. His wife tries to find him when he doesn’t reply via walkie-talkie (the only tech at the homestead), and in her desperation she finds evidence that the wolf may not be the most dangerous threat.
And that’s it. This is how this well-crafted thriller begins. One with enough twists and turns to convey an experimental sense in scripting. It’s weird, but in Hunter Hunter, you can almost feel a screenwriter (in this case Shawn Linden, who also happens to be the director) who’s working while observing how the audience reacts. It is a fine collection of possibilities that slowly materialize to leave you speechless and out of breath.
Linden doesn’t show remorse for the viewer and the direction he takes deviates from what the basic formula always does and/or is expected to do. It doesn’t have to do with a happy ending (this genre is not well known for ending with one). Its third act is one that will go in history as one of the boldest, sickest, and fairest ways to end a movie. You will never expect it because this is how surprises work when they relate to something new. Yes, maybe there are enough signs along the way if you are paying close attention, but even so, you will never be prepared for this. I guarantee it.
Hunter Hunter is an affirmation in genre that does a great job of resuscitating two good actors from oblivion (I was especially happy to see Devon Sawa back on his feet!), but it’s also a great example of how independent cinema can surpass the industry we have come to know as a commercial vehicle. Linden’s film is a fantastic piece of work about humanity and the unraveling of the true nature of fighting for survival without known rules, limits or boundaries.
You’ve been warned.