If the phrase, “from the director of Children of the Corn” doesn’t get your juices flowin’ and your loins a-stirrin’, by Christ I don’t know what would! I jest, of course, but it was this exact statement that beckoned lustily as I tore open the DVD packaging for The Hunt and zipped the disc into my DVD player, which hungrily downed the bitter meal in one gulp. I assume it would have just as happily spit it right out, had it known what kind of meal it was getting.
Bah, technology. I will be happy the day they invent a DVD player that can recognize film mediocrity and refuse to play movies which fall below a certain tolerance level. But for now, I am stuck sifting through the good, the bad and the ugly, and greedily soaking up all that horror cinema has to offer All this despite the often bad taste it leaves in my mouth.
A film like this presents the most poignant and enraging problem, because it had potential. It had a lot of potential. So I wanted to watch; I wanted my DVD player to keep munching away. But I can’t help but wonder that, when an armchair critic such as myself can point out glaringly obvious lost opportunities, what the heck this ‘seasoned’ director was aiming for. Let me usher you back to the previous statement, “from the director of Children of the Corn,” and all should be clear.
The Hunt involves a trio of guys who lease a plot of land for a day, in hopes of filming a hunting video. The intent is to mass-market this video as a series of documentaries on stalking and killing deer with a simple bow. This venture involves Atticus the camera-man, a war-scarred CNN veteran and a drunk, the hunter Jack, a veritable zealot for killing bucks, and Jack’s stepson Clint, a 10-year-old who they bring along because…well, I am not sure. But for the sake of the plot, it is so he can spend some wholesome killin’ time with a father figure.
The other plotline involves the video’s financial backer, Jon, who also happens to be Clint’s real father. We are introduced to a search & rescue mission he is leading, and find out that he has found the footage the three hunters took, but not the hunters. This search mission is all captured on a camcorder as Jon’s new wife sits back idly and tapes everything (and says nothing – to the point of hilarity, I might add). So, right off the bat we know something is going to go wrong with the video shoot and the hunt. The rest of the film is the two stories inter-cut as we follow the trio on their hunt and Jon and the unfolding of the rescue mission to its not-so-subtle fruition.
Comparisons to Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project are glaringly obvious, but this technique makes for some often ingenious moments of film and unfortunately, some confusing ones as well. Clint, by the way, has a camera mounted on his bike helmet so they can film as much as possible, and gives a POV angle for the documentary.
So we have the first problem – with three hand-held cameras running throughout the two stories, as well as the actual film being made itself – it is sometimes confusing to decipher whose angle we are seeing, if we are in fact seeing one at all. It’s even quite confusing to try and describe, so you can see the dilemma. This also would explain why they decided to put the time and date at the bottom of the screen with each new scene, to clear up as much confusion as possible. They do, however, at a couple of points use this multiple-camera technique to do some interesting and unique cuts between the stories and, because we know that something bad will happen, the juxtaposition of the two plotlines is a unique touch.
Aside from the structure of the film, which admittedly was intriguing, The Hunt suffers from a lot of damaging and sloppy filmmaking. Take for instance a moment about ¾ of the way through – Jack and Clint are making their way out of the forest and the time and date read:
04:02AM SUN 16 OCT
And then cut to the next scene;
04:12AM SUN 17 OCT 99
Er…huh? Did I miss something? Am I to believe we are warping ahead through time and space now? Was this not caught in editing? Also, the mental stability of Atticus is firmly established early on in the film, only to fizzle out in the final scenes. Why bother making it so obvious, when there isn’t even a follow-through? He turns out to be more of a bad drunk than a war-hardened psycho. Or how about the entire inclusion of Clint, who exists merely as a convenient plot point. Surely a 10-year-old is not needed for a hunting video?
As touched upon earlier, the amount of lost opportunity is probably the thing I found hardest to swallow. There are so many shots where scary things could loom up in the dark background, or moments where things could be further explored, but are simply…existing as they are. And the finale, while obviously betraying the film’s low budget, sheds a light on the rest of the film – and what I mean is that there are so many interesting things that could have been done in retrospect. But alas, nada.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the straightforward details which I know you are hankerin’ for – there is zero gore, and there are zero scares. I mean, come on! This is a hunting movie! Guns! Bows & Arrows! Strange things creeping around in the forest! Dark, scary trees! Oh, and I am purposely leaving out a major theme of the film, but if you are a Sci-Fi fan, or conspiracy theorist, perhaps you might enjoy this more than the rest of us.
As for me, I just wish my damn DVD player would have warned me and saved me the trouble.