Fantasia Festival 2020: Hunted (2020)

Hunted (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Vincent Paronnaud

Cast: Lucie Debay, Ciaran O’Brien, Arieh Worthalter

Once upon a frenzied time, Woman (Lucie Debay) meets Man (Arieh Worthalter). Woman dances with Man. Man kisses Woman. Man grips Woman. Woman escapes Man. Man chases Woman… Nothing new! Or is there? The over-recycled “revenge” story takes an unexpected turn in HUNTED. The Big Bad psycho-Wolf, embodiment of patriarchy, and his dummy sidekick engage in a wild hunt, but within mother nature’s protective maze of trees, the Red Riding warrior-Hood’s got killer moves, and won’t surrender so easily. – Fantasia Festival

Hunted is a live-action adult survival horror retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It builds from the general concept of the story of not talking to strangers because it can lead to being eaten by the wolf and grows from there. While the plot itself is familiar, much like other stories of women being abducted and then hunted down in a forest in a wilderness survival horror style. It has obvious parallels of the fairy tale its based on like the main woman, Eve wears a red coat with a hood and end up in the setting of the mystifying woods that its set in and the false grandmother twist. The movie itself digs into Vincent Paronnaud’s animation roots as it starts off with an animated story told to a child in the forest about Nicodemus and the Wolf-Girl. The story takes a twist when the story takes a turn that works in Eve’s favor and she sees the opportunity to turn the situation around, using the environment to her advantage. The execution and cinematography is done in a clever way especially as between some transition scenes, the surrounding nature is capture from the animals and bugs and even the dense forest.

Hunted

Hunted hones a small cast of a few people. Eve (Lucie Debay) is the Red Riding Hood who may start as a woman who goes out to unwind to end up meeting the wrong stranger, a man who is the Wolf (Arieh Worthalter) and his sidekick. They capture her not to kill her per se but to do a snuff film. Its an interesting way to present these characters. Eve herself doesn’t have so much depth but rather right away, we know that she’s not a weak female lead but actually has a lot of her own survival skills like blending with nature for example. Its a character that we can easily get behind to cheer on to get out of this ordeal alive. The Wolf is a much more unstable sort of character and probably one with a little more depth in comparison. He is an unlikable character but also one that feels a little unhinged especially when the story changes in the final act and seems to start blending in this reality and imagination/hallucination sort of deal where what he sees slowly pulls away from reality and as it pulls to the end, this is where the film seems to lose itself a little at a changing point. It gets a little hard to track in one portion, giving it this uncertainty between what is real and in their minds.

Overall, Hunted does try to be different in the realm of survivor horror. Its story is a bit confusing in its final act but it also feels like its meant to be that way as the “Wolf” seems to have lost his mind as he loses his power. It pulls in this line from the beginning story about “the company of wolves is better than that of man”. It becomes a fact of whether the wolf is just a villainous man and Eve (aka Red Riding Hood) finds her space with the woods that end up defending her. Its smart to use that opening story as a parallel to this story and then set up this retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. A lot of things are in the details and ends up finding its space even if the final act is a little bit confusing and for myself, falls apart and detracts a little. At the same time, the movie spends a lot of time chasing through the woods that in the middle, there is a little repetitive dragging feeling but as the tone and a little twist, it quickly finds its pacing again. Some little things that makes Hunted not quite as well-paced and well-executed in the second half than it did in its first half.

FNC 2019: Adoration (2019)

Adoration (2019)

Adoration

Director (and co-writer): Fabrice du Welz

Cast: Thomas Gioria, Fantine Harduin, Benoit Poelvoorde, Emmanuelle Beart, Beatrice Dalle, Laurent Lucas

Paul is a 12 year old boy who lives with his mother, a nurse working at a mental institution in the middle of a forest. While visiting his mother at the clinic, Paul crosses paths with Gloria, a schizophrenic teenager, and falls in love with her to the point that he decides to help her escape at all costs after she commits a crime. The pair embarks on a trip across the Ardennes woods which will reveal the extent of Gloria’s dangerous madness and Paul’s devotion to her. – Letterboxd

Some people say that our first loves are the deepest and most memorable. It certainly would apply to Adoration who sees a 12 year old boy, Paul’s fascination and infatuation with the latest resident, Gloria at the psychiatric clinic where his mother works. This story is mostly through the eyes of the main character Paul, played by young actor Thomas Gioria. Independent stories usually like to use the view of one character and it works very well as it keeps the story fairly straightforward while leaving it space for the unknown to happen. The audience learns with the leading character and is able to connect with their situation. In this case, Adoration does a rather good job.

Thomas Gioria does a fairly good job at bringing Paul to life the most subtle and quiet way. Paul is a shy boy who lives secluded from everyone and keeps to himself mostly so when a beautiful teenager Gloria (Fantine Harduin) literally bumps into him, its no surprise that he will be fascinated at not only someone around his age but also the questions of why she keeps trying to run away from the clinic which in his mind should be for her own good. However, Gloria is a convincing girl whether its because Paul chooses to believe her situation or maybe his attraction to her makes him feel the need to protect her but he follows through after she makes a huge “mistake” to run away. Its the journey to Gloria’s grandfather’s home and the time spent with these two characters and their increasingly toxic relationship. To be honest, Paul’s character is rather dialed down that while the movie is mostly seen through his point of view, its Gloria’s slow reveal of her psychological problems that become the shocking elements and simply how much she is able to keep Paul in her control while also having him also be somewhat of her anchor because of their reliance on each other.

Toxic relationships between these two teenagers are the heart of the film. Against some impressive musical pairing as well being able to start off the story in a fairly light-heart escape and the innocence of the characters (especially Paul) gives them room to grow on this journey of running away. The story ends rather abruptly but at the same time, leaves the audience room to ponder on  this relationship and where it can take them especially as they are just teenagers and dealing with some rather extreme situations especially as Gloria seemingly does fluctuate between the good and bad days simply with triggers. The ending is a bit of the headscratcher but its easy to see how its deliberately meant to be that way because it doesn’t quite matter where these two go but rather what Paul chooses despite now understanding the situation that he’s in.

Adoration is a teenage runaway story essentially. Is it completely expected what they go through? Probably not. Is it hard to imagine that Gloria was “lying” to Paul about her situation? She technically wasn’t because in her mind, this is all real. Despite its predictable elements, the setting on the forest and wilderness and having the different strangers that they meet on the path as well as the way Gloria’s character peels away in all its layers of mental illness is done with a lot of detail and care. For a young actress like Fantine Harduin, it is one outstanding performance that is well worth a watch.

Adoration has one more screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 20th at 4pm at Cineplex Odeon Quartier – Salle 10. You can find more info HERE.