Director: Shawn Linden
Starring: Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, Devon Sawa Nick Stahl
Run Time: 93mins
Hunter Hunter is many things at once. Mish-mashing a variety of genres, none of which it navigates entirely successfully. Imagine something part Leave No Trace, part True Detective, part The Grey, and you might be somewhere there to what is on offer here.
The focus of the movie is a family of fur trappers led by Joseph (Devon Sawa) along with his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan) and their daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) who live out in an isolated cabin in the woods. We learn quickly they are barely making ends meet and are considering turning their back on their old-fashioned living off the land lifestyle and joining mainstream society, or Anne is, anyway. Joseph is less convinced. Even worse than all that, they are now being menaced by a wolf. A wolf, we are made aware that has troubled them before. Giving the whole situation a weird supernatural edge, as if the wolf has a vendetta against the family.
It is an intriguing set-up. And one that initially seems full of promise. There is a claustrophobia and tension to opening act of the film as Joseph goes off to hunt the wolf while Anne and Renee wait nervously for his return while also having to scavenge for themselves. Not only this it looks like it will delve into questions of whether it is right certain ways of live have all but been killed off and questions of masculinity. As Joseph stubbornly refuses to go to the authorities to deal with the wolf problem feeling he must deal with the problem himself. It is only disappointing that neither topic is delved to further than they end up being.
No, the movie ultimately has its mind elsewhere and essentially becomes an entirely different film when Nick Stahl’s mysterious stranger Lou enters the picture. Anne finds Lou out in the woods one night, injured while Joseph is still out and brings him into the family home to tend to his wounds. We then enter a game of cat-and-mouse as we unravel whether Lou is a threat. To talk anymore about the plot would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say this section of the film is done with considerably less tension and suspense. Also, it is at this juncture things get progressively more-and-more generic.
At this point it would also to fair to flag that while the marketing for this movie has been based around Stahl and Sawa, neither is the star. No, most of the runtime focuses on Sullivan’s character with Sawa and Stahl flitting in and out. Thankfully Sullivan puts in a commendable performance, striking just the right balance of strength and vulnerability as the tough-but-rightly fearful Anne. Out of Sawa and Stahl it is Sawa who excels as the stoic, taciturn Joseph. The only disappointment is his lack of screen time. To be fair to Stahl though he is not helped by the script and his seen-it-a-thousand-times before “sinister stranger” role.
The other main role is that of Renee who follows the arc of the film by starting out sparky and interesting before descending into annoying-child-in-a-horror-movie territory.
Then there is the ending. Ah yes, the ending. Without spoiling anything suffice it to say things end in spectacularly grisly fashion. It is the kind of ending that is built to shock. The problem is that is all it seems to be there for as if the Linden simply ran out of ideas and thought “Well this will get people talking, right?.” Also, the denouement is made worse by the fact it seems incredibly rushed particularly when compared and contrasted to the patient slow-burn pacing up until the last 15 minutes.
Overall – Despite strong performances from Sullivan and Sawa and a truly tense opening act, "Hunter Hunter" ultimately becomes something of an unsatisfactory mish-mash.