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.

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Prey (2018)

The Prey (2018)

The Prey

Director (and co-writer): Jimmy Henderson

Cast: Gu Shangwei, Byron Bishop, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Nophand Boonyai, Rous Mony, Dara Our, Vithaya Pansringarm, Dy Sonita

The Prey is a 2018 Cambodian action thriller about a corrupt warden that sets up a hunting game for rich men using the prisoners as their prey.

The Prey is essentially a cat and mouse game gone array from the original plans as they accidentally implement an undercover international Chinese cop into the mix. Xin (Shangwei Gu) is said cop that has spent his life catching criminals and suddenly needing to try to not be caught, especially as he also has taken to help out the other prisoner, Mony (Rous Mony) also sent out. As the three rich men go their separate ways to kill their prey and win the game, things turn around when Xin and Mony manages to turn the game around and kills one of the three hunters.

Xin is the star of the movie here. He has more brains than brawn and that works in the gun heavy action. He has a lot of grit and while there isn’t a lot of context to his background, its never necessary because his character development relies on how this prison, the warden and the game may or may not have changed him. Talking about the warden played by Vithaya Pansringarm, he makes quite an appearance, albeit fairly familiar type of character, but he truly captures the role well in the first act with Xin. His part is small compared to the three hunters, especially two of them, the army camouflage dressed Mat (Byron Bishop) and his nephew, Ti (Nophand Boonyai). The latter takes on more of the story as the movie goes into the more intense bits. His story gets a bit far-fetched, but somehow it also tries to give his character more depth.

The Cambodian jungles are a great location. The beginning of the story takes place in the prison but most of the movie is set in the vast jungles. The camera work right from the start is the highlight of the film. It manages to capture the vast spaces to the little places with angles from the ground to overhead shots or trailing cameras after its characters. It all helps make the action scenes better. Although the scenes are mostly gun fights, with some interesting weaponry to say the least, especially Ti’s choice of firearm. The background noise uses mostly its natural surroundings except for the action scenes which has varying background music from lighthearted music to contrast the ruthless moments to the more intense music in the final act to complement.

At the end of the day, The Prey has a lot of great technical elements to it. Where it falls short is in its story. It lacks character depth, probably a lesser problem as its more about the action bits, but probably its bigger problems is having a disjointed story. There are some decent gun fights and combat but it introduces characters that never give enough focus or enough of a tangent to make it all come together, making it less easy to commit and feel completely immersed.