This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all movies, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
Written and directed by Shawn Linden, “Hunter Hunter” is the story of a family of fur trappers living in the remote Canadian wilderness whose lives are about to be upset by the return of a rogue wolf. The film stars Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, Devon Sawa, and Nick Stahl, and viewers should be warned that the trailer for the movie is utter garbage.
I have no real experience with any of the talent participating in front or behind the camera, besides some affection for Stahl and his journey, so this being marketed as the “beginning” of his comeback was what caught my eye originally. Having said that, I expected nothing from this low-budget, hour-and-thirty horror movie, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was an awesome, slow-burning thriller with some great acting and bold choices that mostly worked.
Similar to “Run”, this is a 90 minute, slow-burn movie that builds tension with each scene to the point it becomes a lot to deal with by the halfway point; it is unrelenting and very clever in how it uses the wilderness it is set in and how it uses the expectations of the audience to lure them into thinking they understand where the movie is going, only to deliver a sucker punch and several twists later on. Obviously, how much you enjoy the movie will hinge on those twists, but I appreciate the fact that the movie does not use the themes and undertones of the script as set ups only; it does spend a lot of its runtime exploring those themes and delivering meaningful and impacting moments with them, however the punchline is what will make them pop and stick out.
For the most part, those punchlines I was fully on board with, especially since a lot of those have more to do with the actors and the visuals, rather than the dialogue or the writing, and – the acting in particular – is the movie’s strongest point. Camille Sullivan is freaking awesome in the movie; her character has so much going on, given so little time to convey those emotions before moving on to the new thing, yet she nails it every time and literally chews up every scene she is in. Summer H. Howell is also amazing as the daughter whose future and how best to serve it is an often brought up subject; she isn’t given as much to do as a character, but she is the emotional core of the movie and a lot of the impact of the movie is relying on her and she delivers. Furthermore, Devon Sawa and Nick Stahl are both really good and both do a really good job with what they are given, however their characters and their importance are spoilers, so I don’t really want to discuss them.
That leaves me with Linden’s script and direction; visually, the movie does enough with little. This isn’t eye-candy or something so different it calls attention to itself, but this is a movie set in the wilderness, so making it look homely and sinister must have been a fair challenge, but one that calls less attention on itself. The gore is a completely different beast though; some of it looks very real and will certainly test an average audience’s stomach, but some of it looks very fake or over the top and that contrasts with what came before it – it’s not necessarily bad, its just different than what came before it in an unexpected way that didn’t fully convince me.
Those are my thoughts on the script as well; for the most part, the tone is consistent, the themes are interesting and explored with good intent and execution. Then the movie decides it is going to begin this relentless escalation of tensity and dread, alongside the pretty clear knowledge of something the characters do not know (not full dramatic irony, but very close). This is where the movie truly starts becoming great and starts to sink under your skin, but then the ending is…different; not bad, I enjoyed it a lot, but it felt out of left field. The set up is there and the pay-off is phenomenal, but it feels like the crew didn’t really know how to end it and decided to go with their least expected (ultraviolent, deeply pessimistic) version of the ending, because they knew they could deliver a great one.
So, if you care to give this movie a chance, keep in mind that the ending may piss you off; however, the journey there is so GREAT that it definitely deserves the chance to surprise you. I didn’t personally hate the ending, however I can see how many people will find it off-putting and feeling like it came out of nowhere, however I would disagree with that and simply say that its just not the appropriate ending, to a tense, slow-burning thriller with stellar performances and a lot to say.